An award fit for Wright King

Central CTE teacher Wright King named Illinois Tech High School Teacher of the Year.


Jay Deegan

7: Central CTE teacher Wright King was named Illinois Tech High School Teacher of the Year. King “pushes, stretches, extends and inspires students in technology and engineering,” fellow CTE teacher Brett Thompson said. We chose this as our number 7 picture due to rich story this told. King is in the foreground instructing a student, but the fascinating background of his classroom helps establish him in his environment.

Jake Pfeiffer, News Editor & Copy Editor

Naperville Central CTE teachers Wright King and Brett Thompson sat and waited for the awards ceremony to start. 

Months prior, Thompson nominated King for the Technical Education Association of Illinois (TEAI) High School Teacher of the Year Award. King was there to accept the award, and Thompson was there to watch.

As the presenter for the TEAI’s Big Thinker Award began to describe the 2022 winner, those from Central in attendance began to notice something familiar.

“I had just gotten recognized for my award,” King said. “Then [the presenter of the Big Thinker Award] starts talking [about the recipient]. And I’m like, ‘Hey, this is Mr. Thompson.’”

Sure enough, Thompson’s name was called.

“It’s exciting to be recognized by your peers,” Thompson said. “Ultimately that’s what it is, whether you’re the Teacher of the Year or the Big Thinker, to be honored by your peers is special.”

The two teachers have worked at Central for a combined 40 years: 22 for Thompson, 18 for King. 

Thompson currently teaches electronics and serves as one of the school’s Learning Support Coaches (LSCs), helping other teachers develop as educators. Thompson has taught several other classes in the past, including Research and Design, STEM Capstone, and woods.

Woods is ultimately how the two teachers met; King started working at Central halfway through a school year after previously holding two other jobs.

“I worked at an advertising and marketing company that put on golf outings, and I had a woodworking side business, doing custom trim for old houses,” King said. “I moved into a house that was built in the 1890s and needed trim, so I started building trim for that house.”

This quickly evolved into a full business.

“Other builders saw what I was doing and started asking if I would do stuff for them,” King said. “That turned my love for woodworking into a job. I was always interested in it and built things, but never with the precision you had to have to get it done.”

That led King to come to Central to ask for a letter of recommendation from his former golf coach, Jim Caudill.

“When I came back and [asked for the letter], he was like ‘yeah, I’ll write you a letter of recommendation’, but he knew what I’d done [professionally] and said, ‘I have an opening and I need to talk to you about teaching.’”

King was able to fill the position without going back to college to get a degree in education, as he received a provisional license based on his woodworking experience.

After arriving at Central, King started out by teaching woods, a class that Thompson had taught for the first semester of King’s first year, meaning he was tasked with helping King learn about how to teach the class. 

“I got to know [Mr. King], then handed off the [woods] curriculum and kind of mentored him,” Thompson said. “ He was also quick to change the curriculum and bring it up to date a little more.”

This attempt at improvement has been a constant thread in the career of King.

“ Mr. King is an early adopter of technology, tools and processes,” Thompson said. “He inspires students, pushes, stretches, extends, and inspires students in technology and engineering.”

King currently co-teaches two sections of Geometry in construction with math teacher Grace Twietmeyer.

“[King is] very patient,” Twietmeyer said. “He’s very even keeled. He doesn’t get riled and he has a way of redirecting students without admonishing them which I think is fascinating.”

After having King as a teacher, and currently serving as an assistant in his Geometry in Construction class, junior Katie Schiltz has seen King’s relationship with students first-hand. 

“He’s definitely unique to most teachers,” Schiltz said. “It’s more about the kids figuring out things for themselves. He really just lets them experiment and do as many things as possible. He gives them the experience so that when they get to bigger projects, they can do it.”

Thompson shares many of these attributes with the man he nominated for an award. 

“When [Thompson and I] present or are talking [at an TEAI conference], people see that our program is student-driven,” King said. “They’re surprised with how fluid we are in what we do for our students.”

Yet while the two teachers share many of the same goals, they often approach problems in different ways. 

“[Thompson] is much more looking at things from the educational side, and then I look at it more from the hands-on side,” King said. “Not that he doesn’t do the hands-on or I’m not thinking about how to do it, but we definitely help each other out with both sides of it.”

Thompson’s perspective is part of what landed him the big thinker award. 

“I just try to challenge my students,” Thompson said. “In this department, we try to adapt the newest technologies, the newest processes, what the industry is looking for, what skills kids need to be proficient at to be relevant. That is important to me. It’s one of our CEP (comprehensive equity plan) goals to provide high levels of education for all students. That’s what I believe, and that’s what I try to do every day.”

Both men have left an impression on their co-workers.

“As a math specialist last year, I worked closely with him as an LSC and even though he’s stepped away a little bit from CTE, his toe is still here, and his priority is still with the department,” Twietmayer said. “ He does great things as an LSC as well. [His award was] well deserving.”

As for King?

“[King has] been involved with all the tech classes, he’s developed most of them,” Twietmayer said. “He totally turned our workshop around into a place where kids want to be. A lot of students have moved on to careers that use some of these tools and skills and knowledge, and I see these kids come back and talk to him or stay in touch with him.” 

Twietmeyer sees this as proof of his merit for the award.

“I think that’s a testament to how great of a teacher he is,” she said. “The relationships he builds with students, that they want to come back and work with him, that they want to come back and work with him, get his help, get his advice.”