9th-grade World Civilization, 11th-grade US History, and 12th-grade Economics students at Bear Lake High School are in for an exciting time this next year.
Paul Kucharek will be the new teacher of those three classes for the 2020-2021 school year, and he has some awesome experiences and stories to share with the kids that will amaze and enthrall them.
Mr. Kucharek is an Air Force Veteran who was heavily involved in education and training in the military. He also taught for four years at BYU in Provo and the ROTC program. He was also the Commander and Department Chair of the Department of Aerospace Studies for four years. After that, he was involved as the Northwest Region Commander in Colorado Springs for the Air Force ROTC. He was responsible for overseeing the programs and training of nearly 3,000 cadets in 34 detachments at 34 universities across the northwest part of the country. He also spent a good part of his Air Force career as a C1-38 pilot. He had a couple of staff jobs as well, serving at the Pentagon for three years, and was a Commander for 12 of his 30 years. He also had a variety of different command positions as a flight group and squadron commander.
It is really exciting that he has had the opportunity to experience a lot of the things he will be teaching in US History and World Civilization. He has walked the battlefield of Gettysburg and all over the eastern United States where the major battles took place in Virginia. He’s been overseas in Europe, North and West Africa, and the Middle East and Iraq. He not only gets to teach what’s in their textbooks, but he will be teaching them about what he knows and has learned having lived in those places. And he’s excited about it.
Mr. Kucharek feels like he really has an opportunity to help bring those things to life for the students. He has a passion for it. He says when he learned about the Summit Learning Program, the opportunity to teach some of his life skills, the mentoring, the cognitive skills, it just felt like a perfect fit for him.
He said, “I’m looking forward to teaching the content knowledge. The program just resonated with me. Having been a commander in the Air Force, I have firsthand experience in a lot of what this program teaches. If I could have designed a curriculum, I would have designed it just like this. It is project-based and master-based learning. Seventy percent of their grades will come from projects, and they will learn how to collaborate and communicate and think critically and get up in front of a class and give presentations. I’m super excited to get started on it.”
Regarding his plans for this coming school year, Mr. Kucharek says the program works well, but it is also quite seamless in how it transitions to an online learning environment. He has spent the summer building the program and the projects the students will be working on. He made sure the quizzes online are good to go and the projects have all the material he wants for all three trimesters. He has spent all summer studying and preparing all his courses. He says, “I feel the more prepared I am, the more I will be able to flex to what the students need.”
Mr. Kucharek grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Detroit. He has three master’s degrees; one from Southern Methodist University and two military-based degrees. He got his teaching certification through Montana State University in Boseman.
He met his wife, Karen, who grew up in Colorado, while he was on a trip to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. She was living in Arizona, and her aunt and uncle introduced them. He says they met and dated for a while, but then broke up and didn’t get back together for five years. He was stationed in Germany and sent a Christmas card to the last address he had for her, and it “miraculously” got to her. They corresponded for a while, rekindled their relationship, and he flew her to Germany. They were married in 1994 in the Atlanta, Georgia, LDS Temple after he finished some training in Alabama.
After moving around a lot because of his career, they now live in Afton. Karen does a lot of volunteer work around Afton at the schools and the library. Together they have six children: Gyllian (24), Peter (22), Emma (20), Miriam (18), Phoebe (9), and Abby (7). Gyllian is married to an Air Force man who is going through helicopter training, and they are in the process of moving to Alabama. Peter is currently attending BYU majoring in business. Emma is attending BYU-Idaho majoring in early childhood education. Her husband is a student there as well. Miriam will be a senior at Star Valley High School, and Phoebe and Abby will both be attending Afton Elementary. Mr. Kucharek says, “They’re awesome!”
At the conclusion of our interview, Mr. Kucharek said, “I appreciate the opportunity for the community to get to know me. I look forward to getting to know the students, staff, and the community members and families. I really feel like the families are a huge part of what we do in education. I look forward to getting to know the rest of the staff, but especially the students and community members.”
"Education is the gateway to our dreams. I truly believe that education opens up opportunities; that what you do in school is what will create the opportunities to make the dream become a reality." ~Paul Kucharek