STEM Staff Interview Report: Sharon Tomski

Sharon Tomski is a teacher new to OHS, filling the gap left by Robert Blersch’s retirement from the school (Read a similar interview report about him from the end of last year here). Here is a report of an interview with her which details her work and teaching history, as well as some aspects of her mindset.

What did you do prior to teaching at Oconomowoc?

She had been in the Navy Reserve and taught at the Naval Nuclear Power School for four years in exchange for two years’ worth of college being paid for. It was teaching here that initially gave her a “teaching bug.” Her higher educational background includes attending Virginia Tech to receive a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering, followed by attending UW Madison to receive her Master’s in Chemical Engineering. After college and graduate school, she found work as a product developer for Kraft Foods in Illinois. This job focused on research and development on new food products for the company, however, Mrs. Tomski was wanting to start a family and ended up leaving Kraft due to the hours not being conducive to this. She then decided to go back to school and get her teaching license, since she had really enjoyed her past experiences with teaching. She began teaching again by running the computer lab at her children’s elementary school. There, she learned about a program called Project Lead The Way that was starting at the high school, and thought that high school students having the opportunity to learn about engineering would be very cool. She moved up to teaching at the high school, but began teaching part time in the math department for her first year there. After that, there had been open space for her to begin teaching with PLTW for engineering. She taught there at St. Thomas More in Milwaukee for 13 years. This past school year, Mrs. Tomski was at Catholic Memorial. That brings us to this year, where she chose to come join OHS, since she knew that Mr. Blersch had left and the school would be needing a teacher for Electronics and Engineering Design and Development. She had known both him and Mr. Jappinen from summer preparations and master teaching for PLTW courses at MSOE, and she is excited to work with him now.

What about that Counter Intelligence job she mentioned in class?

Mrs. Tomski also worked as an Intelligence Officer for Counter Terrorism with the Department of Defense during graduate school to make money. The branch she worked for was the European Command, which was tasked with covering Europe, Africa, and parts of the Middle East. Her job focused on looking at reconnaissance information and trying to make connections with that regarding terrorist actions. Another part of her job had been summarizing daily intel to send off to executive decision makers, which was an important role since she had to determine what mattered for her higher-ups to know in order to make the right decisions. She had mentioned this job on 9/11 in class because of her ties to people who had been in the Pentagon that day, which caused me to ask about it for the interview.

What have you all taught in the past? What will you be teaching at OHS?

Mrs. Tomski has taught for a total of 15 years so far, and in that time, she has taught many different STEM courses. That list includes the following: Intro to Engineering Design,  Digital Electronics, Engineering Design and Development, Computer Science, Physics, Chemistry, Algebra, Geometry, and Precalculus. We offer all these courses at OHS, except for Digital Electronics, which just isn’t running this year, but has in the past. Mrs. Tomski will be teaching AP Computer Science Principles, Electronics 1, Ocon Fablab, and Engineering Design and Development.

What has been your favorite class to teach, and why?

Mrs. Tomski’s favorite class has been Computer Programming, which she taught at St. Thomas More. She enjoyed teaching this class because she found it to be very cool and fun content. It was based around advanced programming and making apps for Android devices using Java, which students would then upload to their phones to test out and use the apps.

Who have been your role models in life?

Mrs. Tomski has looked up to her high school chemistry teacher. She encouraged her to go beyond the regular coursework, which led to her having fun doing experiments during lunch with that teacher and friends sometimes, and helper further her passion for STEM. Another person that she viewed as a role model is her friend David Budde, from the Navy. She looked up to him due to his personality, which she described as superbly loyal and honest, and said that he is a great reference for how to go about living life, as he would always do the right thing, even when it was difficult

Do you have any favorite sayings?

“Sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.” “A person is poor not because he has little, but because what he has, he still always wants more.” And “You get what you get, don’t pitch a fit.”

Would you like to give any “life advice” for the students here at OHS?

Don’t settle for the easy way out. Be curious and be a lifelong learner, someone who will always keep learning even when it is not required. Look around yourself for products that can be improved in your life, anything can be made better, and innovating can take you farther in life.

Do you have anything else that you would like to share?

Mrs. Tomski is thinking about starting up a cyber security or coding club at OHS if there were enough students interested in it. If you would be interested, contact her at tomskis@staff.oasd.org

Thank you for reading! Be sure to welcome Mrs. Tomski to OHS if you see her in the halls!