Faculty in Focus: Rob Schlesinger
Posted 08/25/2020 07:30AM

1. You're a science teacher. How did you decide that you wanted to teach and what parts of teaching science do you enjoy most?

I've always loved biology, and for a time even considered attending medical school. However, as a senior in college, I actually realized I wanted to teach science. Growing up, many of my friends' parents were teachers, and I always viewed the profession positively. Summers off were also very appealing.

I enjoy teaching anatomy. It tends to generate the most student interest, which leads to more productive class sessions. I have tons of random facts about anatomy stuck in my head. When I notice kids are starting to lose focus, it is easy to get back on track by throwing out, "Hey, your small intestine has the same surface area as a tennis court," or "Humans are the only animals with chins."

2. As you look back at your school years, what was your crowning achievement - your moment of glory - as a kid?

I dominated my neighborhood in Tecmo Bowl in 5th grade. Tecmo Bowl is an old American football video game on the original Nintendo console. If you let me pick the Raiders with Bo Jackson today, I'd still be unstoppable. 

3. What kinds of things do you do on vacation and in your free time? 

We try to get outside as much as possible. Over the last few years, we've spent quite a bit of time visiting national parks around the US. Graded's schedule allows for the opportunity to visit places like the Grand Canyon during the off-season. You pretty much have the place to yourself then. Last year, my son and I hiked down to the bottom and back. He gained so much confidence from the experience. 

Last December, I bought a camper van. We got a good deal because it smells like a cheap motel room and burns oil. We call her Ol' Smokey. While my kids seem to genuinely enjoy it, my wife is undecided; but I think she's coming around. 


4. Do you have any advice for your students as they resume distance learning?

Advocate for yourself! If you don't understand the lesson, ask questions. If you want to know more about a topic, reach out to your teachers. Teaching and learning is a relationship. Relationships work best when both parties feel like they are being heard. 

5. You taught in Saudi Arabia before coming to Graded. From your experience, what was one interesting thing about living there?

We lived in Saudi Arabia before they had traffic cameras. The roads were chaotic. It was stressful when my family was in the car, but pretty awesome when it was just me. Our last year there they started to install radar and driving by myself became expensive.

6. French fries or onion rings?

French fries.  

7. You've worked with your wife Laura, an Optimal Learning Services teacher, for nearly 20 years. What's that like?

We met working together at our first school in St. Paul, Minnesota. We're both passionate about our work, and it is humbling to be the least competent teacher in the house. I've heard some people say they can't imagine working with their spouse. However, our lives, especially since we've started to work abroad, have always centered around school, so it hasn't ever been an issue. 

8. You're a track and field coach. Do you run? 

Since my early teens, I've relied heavily on running to maintain my emotional health. Obviously, regular exercise has physical benefits, too, but as a coach, I try to emphasize that running is a great means to deal with stress and anxiety. I enjoy coaching track because it is such an inclusive sport. Anyone can join the team, fast or slow. We just want kids to work hard, have fun, and, hopefully, become life-long runners.  

Early on, I found that signing up for races was a good strategy to stay focused and motivated. At this point, I think I've run about 45 marathons. The most memorable race was in Rome. The course went by St. Peter's Square as the Pope was giving mass. I was raised Catholic so I took off my hat. The least memorable race was in North Dakota. There was a horse at mile 20 alongside the course - that was about it.

9. What book is on your nightstand right now?

The Outsider by Stephen King.

10. What's your favorite thing about Graded?

I'm incredibly impressed with the quality of education my children have received at Graded. As a High School teacher, I can't imagine the complexities of teaching elementary-aged kids. Year after year, Jack and Cora have had amazing experiences with teachers who have totally different styles of teaching. It has been fun to observe their lessons in distance learning. I often "borrow" the techniques and approaches I see in their lessons and adapt them to use with my own students.

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