By Maria Chavarria, Talon Staff Reporter
You walk into the mysterious classroom located on the C hall and stare at the figure shuffling papers, running back and forth picking up the papers, and grinning at the tools he has to put back in the closet. The room has an aurora of last night’s Dominos’ pizza and the smell of sweat. “What happened here, Mr. Blackman?” you ask. He turns around with his crazy hair pointing all over the place and smiles big time. “We were putting our hands to do their magic last night and build.” He answers. His simple, unique reply causes you to giggle and off you go to make his room look tidy, too.
Jeff Blackman was a humble young man full of curiosity of how everything around him was built. Whenever he saw an object move, twirl, push, etc. in front of him he questioned it. How? Why? It was just a reflex to wonder why everything did what it did. Yet, when he finished high school he didn’t know exactly what to study afterwards. He worked after high school and took plenty of jobs to earn money and survive in adulthood, he recalls. Finally at age twenty-nine he decided it was time to go back to school. PSU and the University of Portland were his options to continue his education. He wanted to pursue a career involved in math, because it was the one subject that always had an answer for him. There was never a ‘maybe’ or an ‘I don’t know’, there was simply an explanation for the math problem’s answer. So he spent six years pursuing his math degree and paid off college by working along the way.
Blackman never pictured himself being a teacher. He could paint the picture in his head of being a math teacher, but teaching more than that one subject, never. As of today he is the current teacher for a Geometry class, Strut E-car class, and Robotics class at Hood River Valley High School. His curiosity led him to being the teacher of other curious minds who wonder why things work the way they do. “I love questions. I love putting myself up for the challenge to figure out why the answer is what it is,” Blackman states. “I managed to go back to school and pay it all off, because I know how expensive college is. But I did.”
Blackman starts off his day by throwing on his favorite t-shirt and his comfortable sneakers that’ll help him maintain himself on his feet. Besides being a full time teacher, he makes sure to find some time to sit down in his desk and sketch a design of what to build next. In his room, he holds one of his prized possessions that make his room the most advanced and technological one in HRVHS, a 3D printer. One day it might be a cube he’s planning to design and the next day a character of Star Wars, as his new bathroom pass. “Mr. Blackman is a down to earth guy. He’s very helpful and always makes sure to be attentive to his students. I enjoy myself in his Robotics class a lot,” sophomore Charlie Cohn declares.
Robotics is a special class offered in HRVHS that is instructed by Blackman. It’s one of the courses that make HRVHS unique. Robotics, in other words, is engineering. Students are taught to perform tasks such as building robots and studying techniques to improve the robot more along the way. At the end there’s a big competition held for the students to show off their robot. “It’s not just what Mr. Blackman teaches us about engineering but how, which really makes him stand out. You can always hear his loud laugh burst out when we all joke around while building,” Cohn explains.
Blackman took it upon himself to write a grant to the Oregon State Department of Education previously, in order to gain a grant for CTE purposes. CTE stands for Career Technological Education. He wrote a letter to explain who he would partner up with to make this possible and why this would be a benefit for his students. “I thought it would benefit them because it would give them the opportunity to be ready for work in the 20th century,” Blackman says. Once approved and given the grant he used the money to gather computers known for their speed and excellent programs and get the 3D printer, also. He planned his room to have computers set up on the counters around the room and a lot of space in the middle for the creativity of his students to happen.
“He’s funny and chill. He makes geometry less dreadful. I’ve been doing great so far in his class. Last year I didn’t do so great in my math class, but having Mr. Blackman be my teacher this year has been a real good thing,” junior Hannah Duckwall confides. Blackman is known to be a real math genius to his students. “I usually feel like I won’t do great in math or that I won’t get it. I feel like if I ask a question about the math problem, I’ll end up getting more confused, but not with Mr. Blackman’s help. He won’t leave me without feeling reassurance from me that I understand the problem. He’ll sit there patiently and smile while explaining to you. That’s just him.”