During the past twelve years, FIRST has worked diligently to inspire our youth in the fields of engineering and technology. After six years as the N.E.W. Apple Corps coach, Mr. Schuff fuses another element with this mission, teaching. His quiet but potent inspiration glows through his dedicated heart, attentive ears, and “loaded words” as our coach and teacher and most importantly, friend. Mr. Schuff’s electric traits inspire some team participants to become engineers, but he also tends to inspire many to become teachers.
As a high school technology education teacher, Mr. Schuff recognizes the quality of learning experienced by students through hands-on activities after school at FIRST. In order to capture this learning experience, Mr. Schuff started the Tesla Engineering Charter School within the Appleton Area School District. Tesla focuses on engineering principles learned after school at FIRST and puts them into a classroom format. This unique educational opportunity motivates students as they recognize the real-world application of their knowledge. In addition to teaching Tesla, Mr. Schuff’s wife prematurely gave birth during the build season to his third child and first son: Noah. Visiting his son in the NICU before and after meetings, “Papa Schuff” remained dedicated to his 26 “kids” and 18 mentors back at FIRST. His dedication to the team amplifies the importance of FIRST to all team members. According to Jeff Newhouse, project engineer, PLEXUS Corporation “Sean has the knowledge of an eighty year-old, and the stamina of an eight year-old. He puts in more time than anybody else on the team, and yet he goes home and has a family life.”
Despite his busy life, Mr. Schuff sets his work aside for someone who comes into his office to talk. His attentive and professional audience makes it easier for mentors and students to honestly express their concerns or questions. Every opinion is important to him because they provide a different perspective of the team. This helps Mr. Schuff “see” the students who work very hard but very quiet or to settle conflicts within the team. On the other hand, when Mr. Schuff needs to address an issue with an individual, he will use more resourceful methods than normal, such as taking the programming laptop that was left out over night and asking the students where it is the next day. This helps the students understand the effects of their actions, which are not likely to be repeated. Mr. Schuff’s ability to understand and address issues helps to maintain team stability.
When he is not in his office taking care of team business, Mr. Schuff can be found working anywhere in the Tech Center. He sits with students and leads them to the solution of their problem without stating it himself. With this approach, the student understands the concept better. After the student’s discovery of the solution, Mr. Schuff is always willing to provide the resources for a follow-up project. As a lifetime learner, Mr. Schuff works with students on everything and anything, including the projects that he is not familiar with. When the solution is not apparent, Mr. Schuff and the student learn together as they methodically work through the problem. Through his involved teaching methods, Mr. Schuff sparks interest within his students, motivating them to continue their pursuit of knowledge. “When doing work for his classes, Mr. Schuff encourages us to learn independently, or with other students, and only go to him with questions if we are still struggling. I have found this to a useful process of learning in my college courses as well.” says Jenni Merkel, a NEW Apple Corps alumnus, in her remarks on Mr. Schuff
For many teachers, once the year is complete their job is done. Mr. Schuff’s talents are many and power is great. All year round, Mr. Schuff energizes the team as our coach, mentor and teacher. Mr. Schuff changes the world and makes it better through his dedication, open-communication and involved teaching methods. Through him learning is contagious and surges throughout the whole team.