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As a dual credit energy instructor for the Madison Metropolitan School District, in Madison, WI, Jim Reichling teaches students about energy and practical skills applicable to real world jobs in the industry.
Jim’s interest in energy dates back to his days growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. He was fascinated by the science behind the energy required for farm machinery and operating equipment and by the use of techniques like crop rotation to better produce feed for livestock. His curiosity resulted in a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry Education and a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on hybrid power systems. Mr. Reichling has spent the past 25 years teaching high school chemistry and physics to the future generations of energy professionals.
As his interest in energy grew, Jim attended a summer energy institute offered through the CREATE Energy Center. Impressed with the caliber of the workshop and the extensive teaching resources available, Jim became a CREATE workshop facilitator. Soon, he was offering a dual credit course at his high school and teaching energy classes at Madison Area Technical college part-time. When asked about his dedication to energy education, Jim explained, “I had many chances to learn about how energy works, and how it is involved in so many things. But at this point in my life. I’m really concerned about energy from a resource standpoint and from an environmental concern.”
Mr. Reichling’s commitment to hands-on learning sets him apart from his colleagues in the field. He believes that students learn best by doing, and he incorporates a variety of experiential learning activities in his courses. For example, several of his dual credit students carried out an honors project to design and test a solar powered water fountain. They used this apparatus to discover how the height of the fountain is influenced by the solar irradiance and the electric current provided by the solar PV panel.
For Jim, teaching energy courses is not just a job, it is one of the most important parts of his work. He is enthusiastic about helping students understand the importance of energy in our lives and our economy. He believes that by sharing his knowledge and expertise with his students he is helping to prepare them for successful careers in the energy industry. “It’s challenging for classroom teachers to fit energy concepts into a traditional chemistry or physics course. However, when the materials are customized to fit into those existing courses putting tools and equipment in the hands of students, it provides young people with the information needed to explore careers in the energy field.”
If Jim could offer advice to future students it would be to, “get a broad survey of different aspects of energy science. It’s an industry that has many different avenues and the technologies are rapidly evolving. People entering this field need to be nimble and ready to capitalize on opportunities as they arise.”