Rural teachers commonly wear a lot of hats, but few do it to the caliber of Chad Powers.
Besides teaching science courses at New London-High School, Powers — or “Pow” as his students call him — coaches multiple sports while also serving as a much-needed volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and firefighter in his community.
“As a part of a rural community, you do what you have to do,” Powers said. “You wear the hats you have to wear. You do whatever you have to do to make it better for kids.”
Powers initially graduated from New-London Spicer High School in pursuit of medical school. But while attending St. John’s University in Collegeville, he soon recognized that he could bring his passion for physics and chemistry to teaching. It also would allow him to pursue another passion — coaching.
“The combination of student connection and community connection and bringing it all together is a skill set that is very unusual,” said Dr. Richard Wehseler, a local physician who also serves as the medical director of the local EMT team and who nominated Powers. Dr. Wehseler first met Powers on the football field and then personally got to see Powers’ natural ability supporting students as a spotting coach for gymnastics.
More than a Job
It’s more than a job for this father of two young boys. He walks alongside his students and cares for them like family. “They become like sons and daughters,” Powers said.
Taylor Barber is among his students who said they don’t know where they would be without his support. She is is now attending the College of St. Benedict, serving on the EMT squad and pursuing a science as a career.
“Not only is he a fantastic teacher, I learned a lot from him; he also is a great person to go to when you’re struggling with something or you just kind of need somebody to talk to because he’s always willing to listen,” she said.
Powers is passionate about helping students see how science impacts their lives and the variety of career opportunities it provides. For nearly a decade, he has taught a College in the Schools Physics class that allows students to take their learning farther and earn four credits through the University of Minnesota.
Recently, he started an extensive EMT class to teach life-saving skills and allow his students to become certified EMTs, just like they attended a technical or community college. They learn everything from medical ethics and terminology to CPR and other life-saving skills.
“It’s amazing to see the collaboration (among students),” Powers said. “It’s an awesome feeling knowing you are helping these kids build knowledge, build skills, and become adults.”
Powers had the idea of starting the program for about 10 years, but initially lacked the funding support. When he saw a grant opportunity, he took action and secured a major grant for the supplies and equipment. He collaborated with local partners, including a physician assistant who teaches classes in the afternoon to help meet the demand for the class.
Powers also knows the need firsthand. He also serves as a certified EMT and volunteer firefighter in his local community. His students commonly come in Monday mornings asking about the weekend calls as they prepare to learn a new EMT lesson themselves. All of his students know when duty calls, he will step out of the classroom to respond to an emergency in his community and in some cases, save a life.
Educator of Excellence
MREA honored Powers as a 2020 Educator of Excellence for his innovation, collaboration and unwavering commitment to get results for his students. See more stories of Educators for Excellence.