Chris Belknap grew up using Apple II computers in his kindergarten and first grade classrooms. That iconic symbol of personal computing stands out in his mind, just as it stands out in his new classroom at Iola Middle School, where Belknap now teaches in the technology lab.
The previous teacher, Cindy Newland, set up a display in the classroom that features antique typewriters, a classic word processing machine, an Apple II and a modern PC unit surrounded by things like floppy disks and CDs.
To those middle school students who walked into Belknaps classroom carrying cell phones in their pockets that dwarf the processing and storage speed of the Apple II, Newlands display probably feels like stepping back in time.
But for Belknap, its a reminder of how far both he and technology have come. Thats why he keeps it there.
Belknap will teach computer skills to fifth- and sixth-graders, and a creative coding introductory course to grades 5-7. But his journey to the classroom didnt follow a predictable program.
He moved to Kansas from New Jersey at the age of 13 and attended Iola Middle School before graduating from Humboldt High School. He then earned an associate of arts degree from Allen Community College.
After that, Belknap worked at a series of local factory jobs, including stints at Haldex and Gates. He was looking for a career change when the job as technology lab coordinator came open. The position doesnt require a teaching license; Belknaps experience was enough to earn him the position.
His wife, Amanda Belknap, teaches math at Iola High School. Their children are Logan, age 7, and Molly and Ethan Riebel, ages 12 and 11 respectively. Molly and Ethan will be in Belknaps creative coding class.
Belknap has always considered himself something of a technology geek, an interest that perhaps dates back to using those old Apple II computers. Hes mostly self-taught and, like many of his students, is an avid gamer.
But he also learned how to use technology to improve efficiency at his jobs, like using spreadsheets or building filters that quickly sort information to increase production.
He hopes to teach his students how technology impacts every facet of their lives and prepare them to use it well into the future.
Technology is very fun but its also very serious, he said. Just since I was a kid, weve gone from the Apple II to cell phones. The skys the limit into the future of technology, and a basic understanding of coding can really help.
Newland, who has taken another role at Iola Middle School, remains a good source of advice for the new teacher. She was well-liked by students, Belknap has discovered, but he hopes to win them over.
Im going to keep it fun. If they dont like it, they arent going to want to come back to it.