By: Alexander Lewis
Photo caption: Senator Tom Kean visits winner of High School Technology and Engineering Teacher of the Year award, Frank Caccavale, his students at Ridge High School on June 13th. (Photos by: Alexander Lewis / Editorial Intern)
BERNARDS – Frank Caccavale never thought he would have the honor of meeting a state senator but that all changed on June 13 when Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. visited the teacher’s classroom at Ridge High School.
A technology and engineering education teacher at Ridge High School for three years, Caccavale was the first educator to be awarded the 2018 High School Technology and Engineering Teacher of the Year award and the 2018 High School Program Excellence Award for his technology and engineering program by the New Jersey Technology and Engineering Educators Association (NJTEEA) in the same year, on June 8.
Caccavale also recently received the 2018 Teacher Excellence Award from the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA). And it just isn’t fellow educators who think Caccavale is doing a good job. The Parsippany Hills resident was also a winner of the radio station Nash FM Teacher Appreciation contest after being nominated by his students.
When Kean, a proponent of education, heard about this he asked to visit Caccavale’s classroom. The Republican senator’s district stretches across parts of Morris, Union and Somerset, including Bernards.
“I came to Ridge High School in order to congratulate technology and engineering education teacher Frank Caccavale on his Teacher of the Year recognition and to see how he puts his creativity and passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) to work in the classroom,” Kean said.
“We really believe in technology and engineering as the glue that holds STEM together,” Caccavale said. “So, they learn math and science principles, but we’re where they apply it and they apply that through real-world examples using the design loop to solve a problem.”
During the visit, which included Michael Fackelman, Visual and Performing Arts K-12 Supervisor at Bernards Township Public Schools and Bernards Township Committeewoman Carol Bianchi, Caccavale’s students tested a Mario-Kart-inspired design.
“The challenge that we did today was based in Mario Kart, which of course is not real world but they have that connection to it and they immediately just dive into it, they love it,” said Caccavale, who has a bachelor’s degree in technology and engineering education from The College of New Jersey and a master’s degree in education in technology and innovation from Millersville University. “My goal in coming to school each day is to make the kids want to come to school.”
“It was truly a pleasure to observe his Robotics class in action and to see the lab facilities,” Kean said.
Kean, the son of former N.J. Gov. Thomas Kean, also visited the woodworking class, the art gallery and another technology and engineering class at the school.
Caccavale told the Kean that there is a lot of collaboration between the art, and woodworking and engineering students.
The visitors also learned about Ridge High School engineering and technology education program, which also received the 2018 Program Excellence Award from ITEEA.
“It’s really focusing on designing so our whole premise here is to teach students design and problem-solving and we want them to have those creativity skills because we think that’s what’s going to best prepare them for life,” Caccavale said. “So, we teach design through advanced woodworking, robotics drafting, and then the actual course on design.”
Kean said, “The curriculum Mr. Caccavale has developed is enabling students to truly envision an amazing future, an even a college major or career, that incorporates the technology education they are learning now.”
The program includes many different classes: Robotics 1, and 2, Intro to Woodworking, Woodworking Process, Contemporary Woods, Cabinetmaking, Intro to Engineering Design, Engineering Design – Computer Aided Drafting 2, Architecture, and Technology Design and innovation.
Caccavale said that thanks to the support of the Ridge High School leaders and the Board of Education, the woodworking program was able to buy higher quality wood, and tools and focus on improving the program.
He added that they were able to use the class to motivate kids that have school refusal problems by putting it early in their schedule.
“If this class makes them want to come to school, then they’re going to come and they’re going to do the other stuff that maybe is not as much fun, it doesn’t interest them in the same way,” Caccavale said.