home Features A Wild Curiosity Ride: The Legacy of Wade Wilgus

A Wild Curiosity Ride: The Legacy of Wade Wilgus

Nico Higashi | nhigashi20@dtechhs.org | June 6, 2019

US History teacher Wade Wilgus gives a double thumbs.

As our year comes to a close, the school sees some of its familiar faces depart. One of them is US History teacher Wade Wilgus. As he goes on to a new teaching job at  teaching job at Envision Academy in Oakland. With the end of an era, it seems only proper we look back and examine one last time, the legacy of the Wilgubeast.

For those who have had Wilgus solely as a history teacher, it might be a surprise to hear that he was originally hired at d.tech as a sophomore English teacher in the 2016-2017 school year. He only decided to teach US History after he spent a lot of time with his English class discussing history during the 2016 Election.

Wilgus described wanting to move on to US History with that same grade of kids he had taught to help guide them through understanding the polarizing election of President Trump. Wilgus said he wanted to essentially be “teaching US History through the lens of, ‘Hey the President seems weird. How did the past lead us to this?’” In order to get ready to teach, Wilgus admits that he had to “learn all of US History really fast.”

Wilgus’ history class is, and will likely be known as one of the more unique classes at d.tech. True to the design thinking model, Wilgus has spent a lot of time trying out innovative projects and exploring original ideas every year with his students. Last year, he prototyped a March Madness-style “Battle of the Billionaires” tournament, in which students pitted America’s one percent against each other. In another experimental project this year, he watched students invest way too much time into a game that simulates the stock market.  “It’s worth absolutely nothing!” he jokes.

Wilgus always tries to find engaging ways to keep his class interested in what is happening, sand says he most enjoys teaching because, “It’s fun watching people learn stuff, cause I like to learn stuff. For me, 90 percent of this is me exploring things I’m curious about and then dragging 150 people behind me.” He affectionately referred to this concept as a ‘curiosity ride’, and it’s easy to see why.

When reflecting on his experiences at d.tech, Wilgus says, “It’ll change the way I conduct my work no matter what I do…[design thinking] is a skillset that works everywhere.” He continues, “I’ll take away how to design learning experiences, how to design products, [and] how to design a [learning] experience…things that will make me a better teacher and a better employee, so I’m pretty jazzed about running off with those. They can’t take ‘em back.”

Wilgus’ departure, like many other teachers’, is one that’s been met with both sadness and also understanding. Wilgus, who lives in Albany (located north of Oakland and Berkeley), has had a notoriously long commute, and it’s a big part of why he’s made the decision to find work elsewhere. Junior English teacher Lessley Anderson sympathized with Wilgus’ situation, since her commute to and from her home in San Francisco has also proved a difficulty for her. She also acknowledged the impact Wilgus has had on her as a teacher – when Anderson first became the English teacher for the junior class, she says that Wilgus was extremely helpful in teaching her how to use teaching tools like Google Classroom. When asked about Wilgus’ character, Anderson says he is “definitely an enigma”, but added that she believes he is “incredibly intelligent, and very articulate…he’s not afraid to speak his mind.”

Anderson’s view is one shared by many staff members at the school, and students are equally as enthusiastic. When asked about his thoughts on Wilgus’ class, senior Ian Moore remarks, “I love how he’s just super chill in general. He’s just a nice guy to be around.” On Wilgus’ departure, he adds, “You gotta do what you gotta do, but it’s a shame.”

Junior Talia Gillette commented that she liked how he frequently pauses videos during lectures to open them for discussion, which she thinks is a compelling way to break the typical monotony of note taking, as well as providing an interesting venue for discussion. Students also voiced appreciation for Wilgus’ willingness to do deep dives on specific (and occasionally off-topic) questions, something that served as both a fun lesson and a way for Wilgus to exercise his widely recognized sense of humor.

“I want my students to enter the world as well-informed, intelligent people with the skillset to find the answers to things, rather than just accept the answers they are given,” says Wilgus. “You guys have the power within your reach. How you choose to use it is up to you.”

With his charm, unique humor, and weird historical tangents, it’s easy to see that Wilgus will be sincerely missed at d.tech. Farewell, Mr. Wilgus, and thank you.

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