Coaching Robotics and Teaching World History: Learning from Award-Winning Educator Luke Glassett
Learning from the past and innovating for our future — these are two crucial skills that aren’t focused on enough in our classrooms today, but some teachers are working to change that. Award-winning educator Luke Glassett teaches AP World History and Contemporary World Problems and serves as the head coach of a highly successful robotics team at Skyview High School in Vancouver, Washington. Since Concordia University-Portland helps teachers advance in areas like social studies and STEAM, we wanted to learn more about Glassett’s work to provide other educators with valuable insights and inspiration.
We first heard about Glassett when he was recognized as one of the K103 Honor Roll winners and, coincidentally, Concordia’s Associate Professor Gerald Gabbard, PhD, has a stepson who’s been on Glassett’s robotics team for about three years. Professor Gabbard spoke very highly of Glassett. “What I find remarkable about Mr. Glassett is that he truly cares about everyone, including students, parents, and community members. He really believes in the power of the team to do good for others and he continually reminds us of the value and importance of our example to others…I believe what makes Mr. Glassett a great coach is that he is first and foremost a great teacher. He carries his excellent teaching skills over into the coaching role and shows people in a humble way that he is very knowledgeable, skilled, and willing to be as involved as necessary to get the job done well. He remembers people’s names and asks after their families. He cares. He shows empathy. He also knows what it is like to have very little as a child and he shares his story – not to gain pity – but to show that he understands that not everyone has the means to pay dues and fees related to being on the team.”
As a professor in Concordia’s College of Education, Gabbard teaches a course that focuses on STEAM, and when asked about STEAM education in relation to Glassett’s robotics team, Gabbard said, “STEAM-minded practice is about using project-based learning, hands-on and experiential opportunities, and integrating science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics into the regular curriculum. It is about exploration, innovation, and creativity and promoting students as constructors and designers of their own learning. This is how Mr. Glassett teaches. This is how he leads Stormbots. I know that Mr. Glassett holds this vision for teaching and learning from his words and actions as a teacher and a coach. He was a most deserving choice for the teacher award he recently received.”
With such high praise from a parent and professor, we knew we had to connect directly with Luke Glassett to dive deeper. Read on to discover how he got involved with the robotics team, what it’s like to teach history during such a divisive time, and much more.
You were recently one of the K103 Honor Roll winners. Can you tell us a bit about that experience?
I was really surprised by it, honestly. I was surprised and impressed with the entire experience. K103, Concordia, iHeart Radio, and CTL were all very professional and caring. I was most surprised by the reach of the award. Not only did they come to my school to present the award, but I heard from people I haven’t talked to in years because they saw or heard it somewhere. One person even saw it while they were playing Candy Crush. An ad for the K103 Honor Roll teacher popped up. Even today I heard from another person, and it has been more than a month since I received the award.
You’re the head coach of a high school robotics team that competes throughout the Pacific Northwest. How did this robotics team get started?
FIRST Robotics was founded in 1992 by Dean Kamen and Woodie Flowers. Our team (called Stormbots) was started 11 years ago by Phil Hays here at Skyview High School. When I arrived at Skyview in 2012, I took over as head coach and had no idea what to expect or what would become of the program. Since then, we have grown from about 30 students to 56 this year. We also have 20+ business professionals who volunteer their time to help the students.
I heard that your robotics team also competed in the FRC Championship, an international competition in Houston, Texas. Can you tell us more about that?
Last year was our tenth year as a team, but our first to qualify for the World FRC Championship in Houston. We were one of about 30 teams from the Pacific Northwest to qualify. While we were there, we had the opportunity to play with and against teams from all over the nation, as well as teams from Israel, Australia, Mexico, Turkey, and Brazil. It was a fantastic experience.
What do you enjoy most about coaching?
I enjoy the opportunity to interact with different students. As a history teacher and former soccer coach, the STEM world was new to me. It is fascinating to watch these students use their minds to solve very hard, competitive tasks. I am amazed at what they are capable of. It gives me hope for the future. I am also immensely blessed by the selfless and giving spirit of the volunteers who help the team. Some of them donate hundreds of hours of their own time throughout the year.
It’s been said that we’re in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution. As a nation, how do you think we can do a better job of preparing our students for the current and future workforce?
This is a deep question that we could spend a lot of time on but, for the sake of time, I will keep it short. I think we need to make sure to hold our teachers and students accountable to learn the skills and knowledge that will prepare them for the challenges of an ever-changing world. This new generation of students is more socially aware than previous generations. If we teach them the skills they need and spark their curiosity about the world, they can and will help solve problems that we have not had solutions for up to this point. I think organizations like FIRST Robotics helps achieve that end.
You’re also a history teacher. How do you navigate teaching AP World History and Contemporary World Problems in this current political climate?
It is easier to engage students, but I have to be careful. Our nation is more divided than we have been since I started teaching 14 years ago. The traditional lines between Democrat and Republican, or even left and right, are being challenged. Students are engaged because they care; however, when our primary sources are Twitter and Snapchat, we need to step back and have discussions about sourcing. We also need to recognize that speed does not always equal credibility.
What do you think are the most important concepts that we need to be teaching students in regards to world history and contemporary problems?
We live in a time when the only core subject that is not tested on a standardized state or national test is the very one that teaches us about our leaders’ jobs — social studies. That leads to a lot of ignorance. I think we need to teach students the lessons we have learned in history so that we can repeat the good ones and not step into the same mistakes of the past. We also need to teach students how to be responsible digital citizens.
How are you able to manage it all with so much on your plate?
With a gracious, forgiving, understanding, and patient family. Also, being a teacher, I have a similar schedule as my children, so I get a lot of time with them, and I am very thankful for that.
You’re in your 14th year of teaching. What’s something you’ve learned that you wish you could go back and tell yourself when you were just starting out?
I have learned how to be more efficient with my grading in a way that allows me to interact with students more. I wish I would have learned that when I was younger so that I could maximize my time with students.
What do you still hope to achieve as an educator and coach?
As a teacher, I would like to become an AP World History Trainer. I also hope to help train and support student teachers or new teachers someday. That said, I want to stay in the classroom as much as possible because I am here for the students. As a coach, I would love to see our team win a World Championship someday.
Kara Wyman earned an MEd and a BA from University of California, Santa Barbara. She spent a decade working with adolescents as an English teacher, the founder, and director of a drama program, a curriculum designer, and a project manager for a teen-centered nonprofit organization. She’s served as the Alumni and Community Manager for Concordia University-Portland and is now the managing editor of Concordia’s Room 241 blog.