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ACE Highlight's East Tech's Michelle Robb and Clarence Bennett

If you don't have opportunities it doesn't matter how hard you work. ACE gives the students somewhere to go with their efforts. The students need as many positive cheerleaders as they can have. Some people are intrinsically motivated and a lot of people are not and need a helping hand. ACE provides students someone that takes them to the next stage of life.” - Michelle Robb, ACE Mentor Program Advocate

Michelle Robb teaches Algebra and Project Lead the Way Intro into Engineering at East Tech High School alongside fellow teacher Clarence Bennett who is an 11th-grade math and computer science teacher at the school. Together they run an advisory class with ACE students. The 35-minute class allows precious time for the students to explore their own interests and incorporate computer modeling software, SketchUp, into their education. Imaginations quickly run wild with students creating everything from helicopter pads to mansions.

An unexpected duo, Michelle Robb and Clarence Bennett bring their individual strengths to the classroom with a united motto, “Students have to see you be fair and consistent from day one, you will always have hiccups, but try to be as lighthearted as possible.”

Both teachers have a passion for project-based learning. Clarence is a natural builder that can be found sitting on a desk cross-legged sharing his love for Warcraft and building with fellow students. Michelle, a hardworking, organized adventure enthusiast constantly searches for ways to bring out the best of her students. ”I make it my mission to make the kids feel successful,” she admits.

Their relatable, autonomous approach to teaching pays off in the classroom. Most recently with a team of SketchUp enthusiasts who worked with a fellow student to create a video showcasing the work they’d created in the program. The result was a commercial of walkthroughs compiled perfectly, with the fuel of the students’ real authentic passion. Michelle and Clarence admitted they couldn’t have made it go better if they tried.

When it comes to favorite parts of the program, Michelle loves watching the students interact with ACE mentors. “When you see kids talking to a mentor they are completely different people and the mentors become big kids. Those mentors that stick with it get comfortable and have a field day.” Clarence’s background in the military taught him the importance of having someone to look up to. “My mentor was always pushing me to the next level and to the next rank. In this classroom with the support of mentors we are able to watch the kids do things they never thought they could.”

Who inspires/motivates you?

Michelle - My son, getting through college was to support and provide for him. As I have grown I have collected a few people that I admire professionally. It is more philosophies and ideas. Kids are kids, they are going to make mistakes they need to be able to start fresh each day. I cannot get negative when a child is not doing what they are supposed to. If that was my kid, what would I want the teacher to do? Kids need to be seen with fresh eyes every day.

Clarence - My parents were great mentors. Here the students and mentors motivate me.

What would you tell a student about the ACE program to get them involved?

Michelle - I ask what are their career interests then I tie ACE into it. If they don't have a career interest I say come and check this out to see if it sparks interest.

Clarence - We put a list out and 90% of the school puts their name down. The kids like the teachers and the adults that are going to connect with them. We look for students that can contribute. When they see the models being built and the adult interaction you can benefit from they want to be a part of that.

What made you decide ACE was a good fit for you as a way to give back to the local community?

Michelle - It fits Clarence’s personality perfect he is naturally a builder and a tinkerer. I like the career pathway options it opens up and connecting the kids with other adults. The actual construction can go over my head but I value the kids putting the time in and finding what they are interested in and the mentors providing their time to the kids. We have had great lead mentors, everyone has been extremely helpful and given the students good advice, connecting them and directing them. Glen is amazing at providing summer internships for the kids too.

Clarence - As Michelle said, we liked the program. It gives the kids and us real-world experiences


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