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Woelk leaps into 'brain-based learning'

Staff writer

People learn in three ways: auditorily, visually, and kinestheticly, or learning by doing, said Bob Woelk, Hillsboro High School language arts teacher.

Woelk has embraced a method for students to remember vocabulary words using gestures. The gestures act as a mnemonic device, or memory aide. Many students create mnemonics on their own, and this reinforces that, he said.

A student in one of his junior English classes questioned the purpose of the gestures, but the student gave it a try after Woelk explained its use in memory.

“He has really jumped on board with the brain-based strategies for learning,” principal Max Heinrichs said.

Junior English focuses heavily on American literature, Woelk said.

“Mr. Woelk does an outstanding job teaching literature,” Heinrichs said.

Woelk said he regrets not having time for students to explore all of the novels he thinks are important. He said he would like to highlight the works of Mark Twain and John Steinbeck but doesn’t have enough time.

“Everything I teach is a decision to leave something out,” Woelk said.

His ultimate goal for teaching, regardless of subject matter, is to help students become quality human beings, he said, quoting former Goessel band teacher Jerry Toews: “I teach life.”

Woelk recognizes that technology is changing rapidly, and he tries to keep up with the changes and incorporate new technology into the classroom.

He recently experimented with a system that allowed him to send students a worksheet, have them fill it out on their laptop computers, and have them send it back, all without ever printing it.

Heinrichs was happy to hear about Woelk’s worksheet experiment. If teachers can reduce paper use, the school could save money, which is especially important because of budget cuts.

Woelk teaches one section of freshman English, three sections of junior English, and newspaper and yearbook classes. He said he considers the newspaper and yearbook classes to be more of a coaching or mentoring experience. He also coaches girls’ tennis.

Woelk grew up in Goessel and attended Butler Community College for two years. He then worked for the Star-Journal for six years, eventually becoming editor. He returned to school, earning his teaching credentials from Tabor College and eventually a master’s degree in education.

He taught part-time in Hillsboro schools in 1989-90. He taught at Goessel for nine years before arriving at HHS in 1999. He and his wife had lived in Hillsboro since 1980 and his son was attending HHS, so it made sense to him to take the job when a previous English teacher resigned.

Last modified Sept. 16, 2010

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