Daniel Conrad hopes he brought lasting positive change to a tiny Navajo Mountain High School. This is Part 2 of the story.
Daniel, an SPC graduate, says the most enjoyable part of his job is working with students that have been told they can’t do something. He works hard to show them there is a path to prove they can succeed. All children have potential and all should have the chance to reach their maximum potential.
Some of the students on the robotics team have criminal records; some were documented bullies and some students with learning disabilities. None of the students, nor Daniel, knew anything about robotics. The Navajo community is a closed community. They are hesitant to speak with people outside their own. Their tiny rural school has not received any positive accolades in more than a decade, much less a college graduate.
Some challenges and the highlights
The robot was not programmed and we had to compete the next day – one student stepped up to the challenge and learned to program Java in a day.
The students never stopped improving. Their first scoring gear did not work in the Utah competition, so they had a defense-based robot. For the Idaho competition, they redesigned and became one of the best scoring robots on the field. At the Texas championship, their climbing robot was redesigned to be lighter, faster and larger. Drive train failure at the Houston Championships – what used to take a week to rebuild in the beginning, was done in an hour.
The team went from a “closed” community to one of the most popular teams. In Idaho and Championships they enjoyed dinner every night with a different team and made friends that continue still. This summer a team from Salt Lake City will travel and camp with the Naatsis’áán Robotics Team and build robots together.
Lasting positive change
More than half the students want to attend college now. Two seniors earned a full ride to Utah State University through the team.
The robotics team brought pride back to their school. Students have been invited to do a workshop at the URSA (Utah Rural Schools Association) annual conference this summer. Two students will be required to present their accomplishments to teachers and administrators from throughout Utah.
Teamwork is the key to their lasting positive change. Their team operates under a simple concept, no one person can do everything and everybody is important. “Every kid believes that if we lost a single member, then we would not have been a success,” said Daniel. “Watching these students grow and develop as individuals has been inspirational.”
People kept telling Daniel it was a miracle. He knew better. The students did their best. They won every award the team Team 6546 was eligible for.
A group who finally believed in themselves enough to show the world how talented they really were.
Daniel came from a rough area with public housing. He did not have great experiences in the schools he attended. In his late 20’s he decided to go to SPC and become a teacher. He believed he had the skills to work with children. He went part time and graduated as a Middle Grades Science teacher. When he graduated, he knew he wanted to leave Florida and by accident found the opportunity to work at the Navajo School. It was for a one-year contract that was non-renewable.
This is where Daniel Conrad does not give himself enough credit. Daniel gives all the kudos to the students and they are the heroes in this story. I believe though, that without Daniel’s guidance and belief in them, there would never have been the idea that they could achieve any of this – they would never attempted any of this. He learned about grants, sponsorships, GoFundMe and whatever it took to help his students achieve their participation.
“The first step in reaching a goal is for a child to believe that they can go beyond what they thought was possible,” said Daniel. “I feel that as a teacher, I have to be willing to do whatever it takes to enable student achievement.”
Sadly, Daniel has to move on to his next phase. He is looking for an underachieving school in Oklahoma to see if he can initiate lasting positive change somewhere else. We wish him well and I hope he keeps in touch.