Carla Kolbe - Broadalbin-Perth Middle School technology teacher David Wiltey goes over a seventh grade wooden clock project with students in his classroom last month.
Carla Kolbe - David Wiltey cuts out a project on a band saw.
By JESSICA NICOSIA
For the Express
PERTH — Broadalbin-Perth Middle School’s David Wiltey is retiring as a full time technology education teacher at the end of this week. In addition, he is also retiring from his position as the Stop DWI Coordinator with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office — a position he has held for 30 years. Although he is still going to teach part-time at the middle school, the outpouring of sentiment he has received from his colleagues and peers shows that he will be missed.
Wiltey said that the technology and engineering programs will not be altered by his retirement. He will still be teaching four classes next year, a half day. He hopes that next year, both seventh and eighth graders will be able to take engineering courses. The high school is also implementing new classes next year that have an engineering bent, including design, drawing for production, robotics, and a stem class that combines science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Wiltey has taught technology education for 22 years at Broadalbin-Perth Middle School, serving as the driver education instructor, adult education coordinator, and the Team Adventure leader for 20 years. He was also advisor of the Technology Club and the Cross Country Ski Club and coached soccer and baseball. Most recently, he helped institute an engineering curriculum in the middle school.
Before coming to Broadalbin-Perth, Wiltey worked as the summer school principal, taught technology education and driver education and coached field hockey for a decade in the Johnstown School District, and was also the Oppenheim-Ephratah Building Principal for a span.
Wiltey recently received two awards recognizing a lifetime of achievement. He was named Regional Teacher of the Year by the Fulton Montgomery Technology Education Association in April, and received the Wally Davis Award for his position as Stop DWI Coordinator for Fulton County. Four district attorneys and two judges were present to give him the Wally Davis Award and talk about his contributions.
Wiltey was nominated for Regional Teacher of the Year by Dwayne Heroth, a former student of his at Johnstown High School, now a teacher for almost 24 years.
“He was well deserving of it,” said Heroth, who is now the technology education teacher at Canajoharie High School. “He’s been an educator for many years. He’s inspiring many young people.”
Heroth remembers the first time he had the idea to become a technology teacher, the first day he was in Mr. Wiltey’s class. Wiltey told the class that they, too could become teachers if they liked the environment of the classroom and enjoyed what was then called the “industrial arts.” Now that he is a teacher himself, Heroth sees himself mirroring some of Wiltey’s teaching styles.
In addition to his work in the classroom, Wiltey has been very successful as a coach over the years. He coached his varsity field hockey team at Johnstown to nine Foothills championships, eight sectional championships, six regional championships, six appearances in the New York State final four, and two New York State championships. He was the four time recipient of the Section II Coach of the Year. Heroth has also tried to use some of Wiltey’s coaching techniques with the Canajoharie Bowling team.
Wiltey zeroed in on his coaching style recently while overseeing a teacher evaluation session with his seventh grade class.
“My teams were always good, and I remember specifically what happened,” said Wiltey. “I would take a team and they would do what I told them to do because of me. But the day I could change that to them wanting to do it, it would take right off, the team would take right off. So the change from extrinsically motivating her to it coming from within herself. As soon as I can make that change, she can go anyplace she wants to go,” Wiltey says while referring to a nearby student for example.
Wiltey uses this technique often, and it seems natural. He draws students in to what he is saying by placing them directly in the conversation. His manner of speaking is all inclusive but he is also able to make students feel that he is speaking to them directly. At the same time, he is showing them how the subjects he is teaching could be realistically useful in their own lives.
“He has that personal touch,” said Stephen Tomlinson, Superintendent of the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District and Wiltey’s colleague for almost 20 years. “Every now and then, you’ll meet somebody that you’d never known before but just by their aura they immediately grab your attention, and that’s Dave. Whether the kids have known him for ten minutes or they’ve known him for two years, he has a way of impacting you personally. And I think that’s what made Dave so successful, is that when he spoke the kids listened. But not in an authoritative way, more in a nurturing way.”
The way he commands the students’ attention was immediately apparent sitting in on his class. He has a way of drawing them in to what he is saying through repetition and story-telling, so that they are nearly hypnotized with interest. Just describing the process of student evaluations, he made sure what he was saying was both clear and stimulating.
“I have pretty simple goals, I’m a simple man,” said Wiltey to his class. “I want to be the best teacher, and I want my class to be the best. For that to happen, you have to have some feedback, you have to have people telling you how things are going.”
He went on to tell stories about how his clean-up process evolved from a free-for-all to assigned jobs, to rotating jobs, to grading on the quality of the clean-up, all from feedback on the evaluations. He made sure to explain how negatives need to come with suggestions, and positives shouldn’t be written just to please him. When he said he would tell a story another time, kids begged for him to tell it right away. It is easy to see how the stories Wiltey tells get kids to learn lessons when they think they are just being entertained.
“I always believed that you could have fun when you were learning,” said Wiltey. “And so much of education doesn’t seem to be like that. All the things you’re going to need...they do with this project and it doesn’t seem like I’m putting a funnel to their head and pouring information in.”
His students agree.
“It’s an opportunity to just, like, be free with what we’re doing,” said Casey Freelander, a 7th grader. “Looking back I learned a lot and I didn’t realize it because it was just so much fun.”
“We get tired of just writing papers, doing work, reading books all day, we just want to do something fun like this,” said Emma Holland, Freelander’s classmate.
The engineering curriculum, which Wiltey implemented at the middle school three years ago with colleague Dave Samek, gives eighth graders hypothetical real-world engineering projects which they can work through from the beginning to the end. The students pull from their artistic, creative, problem-solving, math, and science skills to bring CO2-powered cars from their mind’s eye, through computer design, and finally to fruition. In the process they learn complicated engineering principles, the use of technical computer programs, and critical thinking skills through hands-on experience.
“He likes kids to ‘learn by doing,’ and encourages individuality, dreams, and goal setting,” said Carla Kolbe, who worked in the classroom with Wiltey for ten years.
When thinking of the future of the engineering program at Broadalbin-Perth, Wiltey says that the engineering program is strong in the way it lets kids relate what they are doing to their own lives, and eventually to their future careers, in a way that other courses cannot. If anything, he wishes that other subjects can find a way to bridge that disconnect.
Wiltey ends his directions to the students on evaluation day with, “If I have a major defect, it’d be nice if you guys let me know that.” Then he puts music on and sits back at his desk, while his students continue to ask him questions, clearly wanting him to talk more.
“Role model. That’s the first thing I think of when I think about Dave. And he’s still a role model to me,” said Tomlinson.
“He’s everything a teacher should be,” said Mary Lou Konieczny, his teaching assistant for the past ten years. “That’s what I feel.”
Wiltey is an avid sportsman in his free time, enjoying sports and the outdoors. Adding to his arsenal of credits, he qualified for the United States Olympic trials in kayaking placing seventh in the finals, and he’s won over 50 medals in the Empire State Games for the Adirondack Canoe and Kayak Team. Wiltey won a bronze medal in the United States Olympic Festival qualifying three times as the United State East Team Member, was a two time New York State Marathon Kayaking State Champion and a three time United State Marathon National Kayaking medallist.
Of all of his vast accomplishments, awards, medals and accolades, Wiltey is most proud of his family. His tone softens and a smile appears on his face as he speaks of his wife Bonnie with whom he will be celebrating a 30th anniversary this summer, and his sons Christopher and Nicholas who are also Broadalbin-Perth graduates with bright college careers.