This honor is presented to a faculty member whose passion, creativity, and dedication engage students in and out of the classroom. Bender has certainly met the criteria. Creating hands-on lessons can be challenging when honing reading and writing skills in English class, but the veteran teacher takes it in stride. “In my Dystopian Literature class, the final assignment is one where students conceptualize and design their own utopian society, based on several criteria we've addressed throughout the year. That assignment was very popular last year,” he explains. Moreover, he is encouraging the English teachers in his department to employ more interactive lessons. “I have been focused on discussion-based learning since taking on the role of Department Chair in 2013. Learning from another student can be very powerful, and I've found that students have a lot of respect for the opinions of others when they are engaged and motivated to listen.”
Bender’s passion for facilitating academic growth in students who learn differently comes from a personal place. “When I interviewed at Forman, my younger brother was just entering his senior year in high school. He had been diagnosed with ADD several years prior, as had my older brother. Both struggled in school,” he remembers. “I was impressed with the mission of Forman at that time, and I now see the work that is done here. Forman is a place where students can get another chance to become an academically sound student, and I love being a part of that.”
Wearing many hats during his time at Forman, Bender has also taught Strategies Instruction and Thinking and Writing; served as a grade-level Dean; and coached football, skiing, and lacrosse. In the end, watching the “aha! moment” makes all of his efforts and busy schedule worthwhile. “I love seeing the pride our students take in their achievements, and I love helping open their eyes to other ideas and opportunities in the world. I love learning things from them, as well – we have a lot of students who are invested in topics that are intriguing to me, and I enjoy hearing about their passions.”Outside of class and coaching, Bender finds time for hobbies like cooking and board games and is earning his master’s degree in Education at Post University. He and his wife, Amanda, live in on campus with their children, Liam and Amelia Rose.