Tom Pachera, Skyline’s Design Technology & Environmental Planning (DTEP) Magnet Lead and STEAM/PLTW District Coordinator

Profile and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

Tom Pachera grew up in Dearborn Heights, attended middle school in Livonia, and graduated from Churchill High School in Livonia.

He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in industrial education and theatre from Central Michigan University and a master’s in technology education from Eastern Michigan University. He also holds Technology & Design certification (K-12), and Vocational Certification in Engineering Technology and Drafting & Design Technology from Eastern Michigan University.

Pachera has taught technology education since 1990. Prior to moving to Skyline High School in 2007, he taught at Forsythe Middle School and at Parcells Middle School in Grosse Pointe.  He currently teaches Introduction to Engineering and Design (IED), Principles of Engineering (POE), and Engineering Design & Development (EDD) courses.  Pachera is the district coordinator for STEAM, and also serves as an adjunct professor in EMU’s School of Technology Studies.

The Pachera family—Tom, Amy, Nick, and Zach—make their home in the Skyline attendance area, and love being a part of the Ann Arbor community. During the summer months, he is a National PLTW Master Teacher, teaching other teachers the PLTW curriculum.

The Pacheras are active in the community through Peace Neighborhood Center and Zion Lutheran Church.

You wear so many hats for AAPS. What do you say when people ask what you do for a living? I say, I am a teacher and also a district coordinator. I get to teach students and coach other teachers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM), K-12.

Describe an average workday. I teach first-period Engineering Design and Development every day at Skyline. Many days I stay at Skyline and co-teach with Mr. (Charles) Centivany, Ms. (Laura) Schaffer, and Ms. (Jennifer) Pool in the DTEP Magnet. Other days I visit the AAPS elementary schools, middle schools, and other high school PLTW teachers and students. I make sure the students are getting good instruction and that the teachers have what they need to help make the students successful.

What are your favorite memories of high school? My favorite memories of high school were being part of several different groups. I was on our tennis and ski teams, I was a cheerleader, built sets for the theatre group, took CTE classes and college prep classes.

Pachera’s colorful office connects the DTEP lab and classroom.

What inspired you to become a teacher? In 1985, I was placed in an independent study woodshop class where I was a teaching assistant for a special needs class. That class and teacher, Mr. Bob Armstrong, helped me realize I wanted to be a teacher.

Did you have a Plan B? I worked for a large construction company and took several construction courses during my undergraduate degree. I have had my residential builders license since 1992, and have operated Pachera Construction during the past 20-plus summers.   I suppose construction management is my Plan B.

When you started teaching 27 years ago, did you even dream of how much technology would advance in the coming years? I starting teaching shop in 1990: woods, metals, and drafting. That changed in the early 90’s to Industrial Technology and Technology Education as design and manufacturing industries changed. I moved from board drafting to Computer Aided Design (CAD) in the early 90’s. I really had no idea that we would be using CAD and solid modeling for so much more than drawing as we do now.

What do you predict will be the biggest technological advancements in the next five years? I believe that CAD and solid modeling will continue to evolve with virtual reality and many new testing and evaluating capabilities.

How do you keep students engaged? I teach design technology because students can use all of what the learn in their academic classes to do real-world problem-solving.

Pachera works with students in the lab.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? In my 20 years in AAPS, the most important thing I’ve learned about teaching and learning is that relationships are the foundation of both. Without teacher-student relationships, students don’t know we care. And if they think we don’t care, they have a hard time learning. Without good staff relationships, we have a hard time learning from each other.

What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? Build relationships with your students and fellow staff members. Get to know the support staff in your building. Become part of the amazing Ann Arbor community.

What is the most rewarding part of teaching? Watching students get it and seeing them become amazing adults.

What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? How very important it is and how tough it can be some days. Tom Brokaw said it well: “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.” Teachers make a difference.

How do you recharge? I recharge in the outdoors. I love to fly-fish, hunt, hike, and ski.

Pachera, wearing one of his favorite bow ties, greets students at the door of his Skyline classroom.

Why did you decide to make the bow tie a daily part of your work attire? It’s a combination of dressing professionally and modeling professional dress for students. Plus bow ties are much safer in labs.

How many bow ties do you own? Upwards of 30.

What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Transitioning from teaching to coordinating has really allowed me to look back at teaching and determine what is important. It is exciting to be part of, and helping to lead, an amazing group of STEAM teachers.


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