RCHS teacher paves the way for STEM inclusion
By Celeste McNeil; photos courtesy of Joe Schneiderwind
Rock Canyon High School (RCHS) math teacher, Joe Schneiderwind, has always loved math and science. After graduating from Douglas County High School (DCHS), Schneiderwind moved to Golden, where he completed an undergraduate degree in engineering physics and a master’s degree in applied mathematics from Colorado School of Mines.
Although Schneiderwind never had teaching aspirations while in school, he tutored and supported younger learners while he was a student. “I had never intended on being an educator, but that’s what I have been doing for years,” he said. After leaving a PhD program in acoustics at Penn State University due to a progressive disability, Schneiderwind made education his career path officially. He recently completed all the required classwork and student teaching for secondary education through Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver.
Originally from Castle Rock, Schneiderwind returned to his alma mater and student taught at DCHS. Then he joined the RCHS math department. “I find myself very fortunate to have ended up at RCHS. The school is great, and the community is fantastic, so I feel lucky to be a RCHS teacher.”
While in college, Schneiderwind realized individuals with disabilities are grossly underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) classrooms and professional fields. He set out to give voice to the issue. Schneiderwind has participated in several conferences, co-authored several articles and blog posts, been a guest on “The Only One” podcast, and in September, he gave a TED Talk at MSU Denver about normalizing disability in society, beginning in school (https://www.ted.com/talks/joseph_schneiderwind_normalizing_disability_begins_in_school).
Historically, the only disabilities in the STEM equality discussion have been learning disabilities. While learning disabilities are important to include and accommodate for, physical disabilities have largely been left out of the equity conversation altogether. Physical disabilities have effectively become invisible in the education and STEM spheres.
Schneiderwind wants to make the invisible visible. “The solution begins in school. Students need to see more disabled educators so they can imagine a place for themselves in similar positions in the future,” he said. Teacher education programs also need to shift pedagogy to help make disabilities normalized by teaching future teachers how to effectively use inclusive practices to aid all students.
The issues are large, but Schneiderwind is leading by example. Beyond the classroom, he organizes science experiments for his neighbors outside his home. At school, he shows up each day ready to teach and is a voice for STEM and for those with disabilities.
Schneiderwind values the connections his teaching position allows. “The students have been great,” he said. “They are what has been the most fun part of the job so far.”