With less than five years in between, Patrick Wilkins found himself going from behind the desk to the front of the classroom at Portage High School.
Wilkins, who graduated from Portage High School in 1999, is the current mathematics instructional coach and the assistant wrestling coach at the same school.
“There’s a handful of my past teachers still here,” Wilkins said. “It’s been really great. I get along with my coworkers; they’re always welcoming.”
Wilkins was born and raised in Portage. After graduating from Indiana University Bloomington in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and education, he returned to Portage to make it his family’s home. In the fall of 2004, Wilkins applied to Portage High School and was accepted as a mathematics teacher.
As the mathematics instructional coach, Wilkins is the go-to guy for the many technological tools teachers and students use. He goes from class to class, helping teachers with their technical questions and issues. He said the high school utilizes tech as an important tool for learning, such as in the Schoolology program, Apple Classroom and iExcel, which are all computer programs for educators and their classes. It’s crucial that he’s always on his toes, making sure everything is running smoothly online.
“I have an office, but I hardly use it,” Wilkins said. “I’m helping different teachers every day, you never know who’s going to email you needing help.”
Wilkins enjoys making rounds throughout the school every day, versus staying stationary in one classroom.
“I feel I have more of an effect on more students now,” Wilkins said.
Students today have a completely different relationship with technology than when Wilkins went to Portage High School. He said in his time as a student, there were only a handful of places in the school where hefty Windows computers could be found, and paper and pencil was in every students’ hands, not a school-issued iPad.
“It’s highly accessible for students,” Wilkins said. “They can check grades on an app, we couldn’t do that before.”
He said that the last math class he taught went completely paperless, squashing the age-old excuse: “The dog ate my homework.”
“Unless the dog ate the entire internet, that won’t work anymore…” Wilkins said. “Students had other excuses, uncharged iPad’s or leaving them at home, but ultimately the benefits were worth it.”
When it comes to hobbies, spending time with his wife of 11 years, Stephanie, and their three children Cooper, 9; Andrew, 7; and Lilly, 15 months, is at the top of the list. He also enjoys coaching his kids’ soccer teams and participating in a community inline hockey team. For him and his family, The Region will always be home.
“I like the proximity to Chicago,” Wilkins said. “At the same time, we’re not far from rural areas either, and Lake Michigan. We like going to the beach a lot.”
Beyond his role in tech, Wilkins has a very different side: he’s the assistant wrestling coach at Portage High School and assistant coaches the local elementary school wrestling club.
“Most of my job now is mental,” Wilkins said. “So, I like that I get to do more physical work after school, it’s a good outlet and a different change of pace.”
Just like in math, Wilkins uses what he knows to help students be the best they can be, whether it’s mastering algebra or winning a big competition or getting savvy with technology.
“My favorite part is seeing the kids and how they reach their success,” Wilkins said. “For some, it’s winning a state competition, and for other’s it’s get better than they were the year before.”