By Kim Johnson

MAPLE GROVE, Minnesota (WCCO) — It’s that time of the week when we celebrate the teachers doing excellent work in the classroom.

Erik Malm teaches 12th grade physics during the school day at Maple Grove Senior High, but his passion for science spills over after class. It’s his after-school club, which is winning awards and giving students a unique hands-on learning opportunity, that makes him an Excellent Educator.

Along with having fun in class, Malm believes in learning through doing.

“The thing I love about teaching physics in high school is we can see everything, everything is based off demonstrations that we do in class,” he said. “So everything is not memorizing, they can actually understand why things work.”

There is no better example of how he does that than through the Crimson Robotics Team. In the program, students build robots and then enter competitions.

Since Malm took the helm, student enrollment has doubled to now 60 students. Malm believes the lessons students learn in science can help them in all areas of their lives.

“If they’re going to do something challenging in their lives, whether or not it’s science, they need to be able to know how to not just google an answer, but how to take what they know and figure something new out,” he said.

Physics might be his first love, but the arts are a close second. Malm spends his summers performing with a Shakespeare company in White Bear Lake.

“I was an art kid, I was into theater and music but I also liked doing science, so teaching allows me to get that performing side of me out but also do actual science,” he said.

And although the standing ovations may come from his theater audiences, in the classroom he still knows when he’s nailed a performance.

“I love that moment of understanding when someone suddenly understands and you can see it on their face and I was a part of that,” he said.

This year, Malm’s robotics team won the Chairman’s award in the FIRST Robotics competition in Duluth, which is the highest honor. They won the award for their team’s mission which is to provide the opportunity of robotics to every student, in every grade, in every school in District 279.


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