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Assistant Professor Paul Wendel Named Ohio STEM Exemplar

Assistant Professor Paul Wendel Named Ohio STEM Exemplar

Paul Wendel, assistant professor in Otterbein’s Department of Education, was recently named an Ohio STEM Exemplar by the Ohio Academy of Science (OAS). 

Ohio STEM Exemplars exemplify believing in Ohio from a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce perspective, according to the OAS. They serve as role models for students to encourage them to pursue STEM careers and become entrepreneurs and innovators. This marks the first time the OAS has presented these awards.

Wendel, who specializes in science education in the department of education, was nominated for the award by Wendy Sherman Heckler, associate vice president for Academic Affairs at Otterbein. Wendel filled Heckler’s faculty position in 2012 when Heckler moved into Academic Affairs.

“Paul is an amazing teacher,” said Heckler, who served as his doctoral advisor at Kent State University. Wendel, who was teaching physics at Copley High School at the time, took classes at night, earning his doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction/science education from Kent in 2008.

“He is a very purposeful and thoughtful instructor. Also, he’s just really smart,” Heckler continued. “You know when we tell our own students at Otterbein to throw their whole selves into their education, question your professors, read everything, go and look beyond—that’s Paul.”

Wendell brings 24 years of science teaching experience into the classroom, 18 years at the high school level and six post-secondary. Why he teaches science may surprise you.

“My real motivation for teaching science is the world is amazing, and it would be a shame to go through life without knowing something about it,” Wendel said. “This is what gets me out of bed every day to prepare learning experiences and meet with classes.”

His teaching style has evolved over the years. Wendel has learned to talk less and listen more, setting up a classroom “in which students do a great deal more talking and I do a great deal more listening,” he said.

“Wonderful ideas surface when we’re at our best, including insightful ideas that just happen to be incorrect,” Wendel continued. “This is not to say that I do not bring experience and insight to the classroom. But if students are to learn these insights, they must come out of students’ minds rather than my own.”

In addition to Wendel, Otterbein alum Brian Hajek ’66 also made the inaugural list, which included 58 professionals from 25 counties in Ohio. Hajek retired from The Ohio State University in 2013 after serving as a senior research engineer and a member of the graduate faculty in nuclear engineering since 1968.

“I think the most important thing in my career has been having the opportunity to mentor a lot of students,” Hajek said. “That’s the one thing in retirement I miss more than anything else is the contact with the students.”

Learn more about Otterbein's Department of Education.