Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

November 29, 2010

RISING STAR: Glasgow teacher says students are his stars

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — After 18 years with the Glasgow school system, JR Dakin laughed at the premise he’s one of this community’s Rising Stars. It’s his students he believes who are on their way up.

“I think I’m on the downhill slide,” he said laughingly.

There are a number of students who have the potential to really continue in an engineering program, Dakin said. The junior and sophomore classes at Glasgow High School have a number of students who have shown a propensity for engineering work.

“I’ve got one who is smarter than I ever thought of being,” he said.  

Glasgow High School Assistant Principal Mike Harris disagrees with Dakin’s assesment of himself. Harris said the technology teacher is a talented and intelligent individual.

The classes work well with the school’s emphasis on math and science as well as helping students prepare for the ACT test and college.

“He’s been very good at taking his talents into the classroom and teaching students in an interesting way,” Harris said.

When Dakin started his teaching career at Glasgow he taught industrial arts, then it shifted to technical education.

“A few years ago numbers were starting to dwindle in the technical classes and I was able to convince the administrators to start a pre-engineering program,” he said.

The numbers were dropping as the district shifted focus toward courses that would help students better perform on standardized tests, Dakin said. Engineering courses work well with that goal, and students in the classes use their math and science skills.

Things started slowly with few students enrolling in the engineering courses the first few years, he said.

“I convinced them to stick with me and things would pick up,” Dakin said.

Since the program started, Dakin has taken the projects his students have completed along with the work they’ve done, and used it to recruit.

As more students see others having fun in class, getting to take field trips and doing interesting things more will enroll in the pre-engineering courses, Dakin said.

“You don’t have to be a genius to be successful, you just have to be willing to work,” he said.

Dakin has a lot of first-hand experience that he can offer to his students, Harris said. “He’s able to apply that experience to classes and teaching.”

The pre-engineering program is definitely something that Dakin spent a lot of time developing, Harris said. Dakin spent a lot of time working over the summer to gain the training he would need to teach engineering and architecture classes.

Dakin has also worked hard to promote the program, the assistant principal said.

“Like any new program, there is going to be a period of development,” Harris said.

Now the classes have been bought into by students who have left the program to pursue engineering or architecture-type majors in college and the students who are still taking Dakin’s classes.

The classes are taught in an innovative way and allow the students to get involved and gain experience, he said.

During one class, Dakin bounced from group to group. He asked questions and if something worked, Dakin wanted the students to explain why it had worked.

“There’s different ways of learning about things,” Dakin said. “Sometimes students learn how to do things by accident, but then it’s important to them to understand and be able to explain why it worked.”

Glasgow is one of four schools that will be presenting as part of the Lead the Way program. Glasgow will join Scott, Trigg and Franklin county schools.

“The students who enroll in these courses can also get college credit,” Dakin said. There are many schools such as the University of Kentucky, Duke University and Georgia Tech amongst others who offer the credits through the Lead the Way program. Western Kentucky University also offers varying amounts of credit for the five engineering courses at Glasgow High School. The WKU credits are through an agreement that Dakin reached with the college.

Dakin’s students in his classes build items such as small robots and 3D models. The models are the product of a machine that is unique to the class and allows the students to interact with local industries to learn what it takes to be an engineer after high school.