Bob Fink is 2016 Teacher of the Year
Attitude and effort are most important in acquiring life skills, because they directly impact the quality of learning, says Bob Fink, Springfield Public School Teacher of the Year.
Anyone who has a positive attitude and constantly strives to give their best effort, eventually will overcome obstacles and are ready for greater challenges.
“Attitude and effort. I preach that every day in teaching and coaching,” said Mr. Fink during a recent interview.
Mr. Fink also believes that a sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools one can have to make certain that daily mood and emotional state support good health. He believes laughter is a powerful stress reliever. “I want to create an atmosphere where there is no stress,” he said. That’s important, he says, because “we are family for 175 days of the year. We play hard. We work hard. That’s what we do.”
He has created a “no stress zone” and the youngsters in his classroom support that.
“He jokes around every day. If you’re having a bad day he’ll make it a good day for you,” said Bryn Gordon.
“He’s energetic and fun. He tells lots of jokes, and we tell a lot of jokes,” said Sam Rummel. “He acts younger than he is . . . maybe in his 20s or 30s.”
“He can tell if you’re having a bad day; but even if you’re having a good day he’ll make it better,” said Danny Rogotzke. “He makes math lessons fly by. He makes us work hard but he makes it easy.”
Mr. Fink gives his students a math package each day — 7 or 8 pages with 75-100 math problems. “The kids never complain. They just do it,” he said.
Mr. Fink has adopted and lives by the adage “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care,” made famous by President Theodore Roosevelt.
The number one key to being a successful teacher, Mr. Fink says, is building relationships with kids. He has a daily check list of things to do and at the top of the list is: Talk to every kid in the classroom — every day. “I can do nothing for them unless they know that I care,” he reiterated.
The teacher is greatly rewarded when former students tell him what an impact he has made on their lives.
He’s proud to have been mentor to James Eckstein and Shane Neperman, two teachers on the current Springfield Elementary faculty. He is pleased that a former student, Brandon Wilhelmi, is now first-grade teacher and assists him in coaching baseball.
Mr. Fink appreciates having had good mentors. “I was so fortunate to have had Sharon Cowman as my mentor when I began teaching third grade” at Springfield Elementary School 26 years ago, he said. “I had the best teacher mentor one could ever have started with. She taught me so much that I needed to know about the job.” “I have also learned a tremendous amount from Troy Hoyt. He is the most positive person I have ever met in my lifetime. He is a friend, a person I admire and is a teacher every parent would like their own child to have. Finally, I have had a large number of principals throughout my career. Mr. Kuehn is the first one that I have had who understands the value of forming strong relationships with students. He is constantly encouraging and pushing me to be the best I can be. Mr. Kuehn does not believe in being average.
Mr. Fink developed a strong work ethic and a sense of responsibility that has also been an element in his teaching success. “School was always a struggle for me. I had to work hard to get good grades,” he commented. “It made me a good teacher — especially for kids who struggle academically.”
Mr. Fink’s father operated a large turkey farm, and Bob worked long hours in the turkey barn — sometimes from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. and then headed to school. “When I got out of high school, I had no clue what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he said. His father advised him that he could work in turkey barns the rest of his life or go to college. Mr. Fink decided on a career in elementary education. “I relied on one important skill that I had — relating with kids,” he said.
While teaching full-time, Fink and his wife, Heidi, created Educational Resources of Minnesota — professional development for educators. Educational Resources offers video and independent study courses for teachers nationwide. Bob takes pride in designing courses that are up-to-date, practical and “real life.” Courses are designed to give professionals the knowledge and skills needed to make a real difference in helping students/athletes reach their fullest potential. “The business is a true gift for me,” he said. “Approximately 20,000 teachers have taken the course.
Hundreds and hundreds of kids are learning some real positive things as a result of these courses.