By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News
Huron High School Project Lead the Way teacher Rob Cupit was born in 1987 and grew up in Woodhaven. His father, Bob, is an industrial manufacturer at 3M; his mother, Cindy, is a legal administrative assistant; and his sister, Alyssa, is an elementary school teacher.
Cupit attended and graduated with honors from the Eastern Michigan University School of Technology and Design and Education. While attending school he was a student athlete playing on Eastern Michigan’s Hockey team. He did his student teaching at Skyline High School with Tom Pachera teaching PLTW during his senior year at Eastern.
After graduation, Cupit taught Project Lead the Way at a public charter school in Detroit for five years. In the summer of 2016, he returned to Ann Arbor to join the River Rats at Huron. He aspires to obtain his doctorate and become a professor at a major University teaching the next generation of teachers.
Cupit lives in Dearborn with his wife Nikki, his one-year-old daughter Ellie, and his German shepherd, Nevaeh. When he is not at work or home, Cupit enjoys playing hockey and tinkering with new technology.
What is your fondest memory of high school? My fondest memory of high school is playing hockey with my friends. I still talk to a few of the players that were on the team, one of them becoming my best friend in High School and eventually becoming my best man in my wedding.
If you could go back to high school, what would you do differently? If I could go back to school I would definitely challenge myself more academically. My senior year consisted of Computer Aided Design, which was a passion of mine, as well as AP Calculus and four different types of gym classes. I wish I would have taken tougher classes and followed my dream to pursue an engineering degree.
What inspired you to become a teacher? My mother and I are extremely close. She saw that at a young age I loved the ability to teach people new things. I enjoyed watching someone learn something new, especially if it involved technology. I have always loved kids and wanted to make a difference in students lives where I could push them to become whatever they wanted to be. The “ah ha” moments are what I live for as a teacher.
What’s the best compliment anyone could give you? That I made a students experience in High School better. Whether it was introducing them to something new, or pushing them farther as a student, it would be the best compliment to know that I made a difference in a student’s life.
In which other teacher’s classroom would you like to enroll, if only for a day? Why? Oddly enough, philosophy. I have always been fascinated with philosophy and looking at the world with different point of views. I feel the desire to learn as much as I can each and every day to understand the world better, and what better way to do so then to do it philosophically.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? Being a teacher at Huron has truly opened my eyes to new perspectives because of the ever-growing diversity. It has taught me that each individual learns in their own way. Even though it is difficult as an educator to reach every single learning style, it is my job to try to the best of my ability to reach every student.
Have teenagers changed much since you first started teaching? In some aspects yes. I believe that we have huge serious issues when it comes to being socially connected as a society. Students don’t hang out as much as they used to or just be kids. They are so focused on getting into college or getting an A they forget to enjoy school and life and to discover themselves as individuals.
Describe an average workday. I arrive at school approximately 40 minutes before my first hour to get prepared for the day mentally. My 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th hour I teach the Intro class for our Huron Science Technology and Engineering Program (HSTEP) titled Introduction to Engineering and Design (IED). My 2nd and 3rd hours I teach the capstone course in our program called Engineering Design and Development (EDD). Mrs. Marchionna and I have taken over for our founder Mr. Sumerton who built the program from the ground up. Mrs. Marchionna and I have since then obtained close to 300 students in the Project Lead the Way Program. After school, students are constantly in the lab working on a project or involved in our numerous after-school clubs that Mrs.Marchionna and I run. We usually leave school by 4:30 but only because we both have to pick up our kids.
What’s the best/worst thing about being a teacher? The best thing is definitely the kids. The students are amazing in our program. They are the best of the best in my eyes. The worst thing about being a teacher is the struggle to reach every student every day. It can be very frustrating to work all day and night on a lesson plan for it to crash and burn the next day.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? Keep it simple. Don’t try and become involved in every club and activity the first year. Just take a deep breath and focus on gaining relationships with your students. The curriculum will come with time and develop as you teach.
What were you doing when you last pushed yourself out of your comfort zone? To be honest I love a challenge and don’t get pushed outside of my comfort zone. I am comfortable in any situation because I am extremely outgoing and friendly.
What’s the happiest part of your day? The beginning of each class when I can just sit and talk to my students about their day or weekend. I love just being real with my students instead of always being so formal.
Apps you can’t live without: NHL, Snapchat, Facebook, Google…everything, YouTube, and the Weather Channel.
Must-see TV: Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, This is Us, Rick, and Morty.
What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year? That most teachers are there to support you, not compete against you. I never really saw my teachers talk to each other. At Huron, we constantly collaborate which makes all of us better teachers.
How do you keep students engaged? With Project Lead the Way, the curriculum is designed for students to use project-based learning to discover new topics and skills. They design and use critical thinking to solve real-world problems. Students are given a problem and it is completely up to them on how to solve it. They are usually given the ability to choose their own topics when applicable and are never told how to do something. It’s unusual for most students at first, but once they reach a level of comfort, their minds open up and critical thinking is born.
How do you show school spirit? I bleed Green! I think I own every shirt that is sold in the school store. I love showing off my school spirit and allowing students to see that I am a proud teacher at Huron!
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? Being able to see students grow and achieve their goals. Weather it’s as simple as a student completing a project that they didn’t feel they could complete, or as complex as a student getting accepted to MIT, all I can do is feel proud that I was a part of their success.
How do you recharge? By spending time with my family and enjoying a good game of hockey!
How do you spend your summers? A couple of summers ago I worked with Mrs. Marchionna’s husband, Ben, and his drone company, Skyspecs. They reside in Ann Arbor but I worked for them off the coast of Denmark in the Baltic Sea. I was the assistant to the drone operator. Our job was to survey wind turbines for damage or imperfections. We took off from a moving boat, took hundreds of pictures of the turbines, and then landed back on the boat. It was an amazing experience I will never forget.
This past summer I became Mr. Mom watching my beautiful daughter learn to walk and making sure she was as happy as can be!
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life? The most exciting thing about my professional life is watching HSTEP grow and become what Mrs. M. and I envisioned when we were hired. We have a huge lab full of new equipment that our students will benefit from for years to come.
The most exciting thing in my personal life is easily watching my daughter grow up. She is getting so big so fast I just shake my head and hold on tight.
How do you think students will remember you and your class? Every year I have students come back to us and say how much our classes have helped them in college. Students love our class because it is not like traditional classes. Students are given ownership in their learning through project-based learning. They are being introduced into growing industries in the STEM fields that they never knew existed. We are building a future full of engineers and it’s the most exciting thing as an educator to watch students grow academically and as individuals.