Mr. Daniel Bartels is one of the many new Upper School faculty members at Collegiate this year. You can usually find him in the Commons working on robotics, and he’s hard to miss with his lumberjack beard.
Mr. Bartels grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Growing up, he was interested in video games and computers. When he was in the seventh grade, he taught himself how to program, although he says he is a hacker, not a programmer. In addition to programming, he also made games on the Commodore Pet, which came out in 1977, and was manufactured by Commodore International. Mr. Bartels’ first computer was a Vic 20, the first computer to sell one million units.
Mr. Bartels first came to Richmond in 1989 while visiting a friend in Staunton, Virginia. After stopping in Richmond, Mr. Bartels decided to move here, where he attended VCU for a little bit to study Biology, but then dropped out. After dropping out of VCU, he got a job at a rug store where he restored antique textiles. Mr. Bartels ended up working there for five years, which he loved because he met amazing people and enjoyed what he did. One day, his boss went on a trip and told Mr. Bartels to hire someone new. The person he hired became a friend with whom he decided to start a band. Their band was so popular that they received a record deal. Mr. Bartels and his band mate toured and made albums, while also working on rugs as a side job. On his first United States tour, he and his group traveled 32 thousand miles. Mr. Bartels said, “It got to the point where you didn’t even need maps.” Although Mr. Bartels loved playing music, he got tired of touring. “Touring is not as fun as people think it is.”
While in a bookstore, Mr. Bartels picked up a book on number theory and realized he knew some of the material from middle school. He decided to quit his band and go back to school, where he studied math and physics. He was denied financial aid, so he took a year off of school and worked at an AV (audio/visual) company setting up projectors. One day, his boss needed someone to set up sound at a conference in Northern Virginia for Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations at the time. Mr. Bartels was given the gig because he was the cleanest shaven man on the job that day. After his gig with the United Nations, his boss gave him more sound jobs, including setting up for President Bill Clinton, Republican politicians, other government officials, and corporate clients like Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Mr. Bartels was also a cameraman for NATO’s 50th anniversary summit and remembers having only 15 minutes to fix a mic problem for President Clinton. During his time with the AV company, Mr. Bartels did setup for Rosa Parks at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and was the cameraman that filmed her walking down the aisle to speak. In addition, he was able to spend some one-on-one time with her before the ceremony began, which he said was amazing.
After a year with the AV company, Mr. Bartels returned to school, where he studied math, physics, and computer science and received two degrees in three years. Prior to working at Collegiate, Mr. Bartels worked at Hanover High school, and he had been there since the founding of the school in 2003. Originally, he had only planned to teach for one or two years, but he never looked back, and the time flew by. Mr. Bartels worked at Hanover for 12 years, and while there he started a robotics team. Mr. Bartels says he loves Collegiate: “It’s amazing.” Mr. Bartels is the Middle and Upper School STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] Coordinator at Collegiate. He says that being the coordinator at Collegiate is amazing because he’s literally building the program “from the ground up.” As a teacher, Mr. Bartels wants to understand the culture of the school. Mr. Bartels wants to work with students, and instead of just teaching them a certain material, he wants to find out what the student is interested in within the subject and make a project out of it and work in that field.
Although he’s only been here for two months, his students already love him. Peyton Lyons (16’) said, “Mr. Bartels is definitely a different teacher. He engages with the students on a different level than most other teachers. He goes out of his way to start projects with students that normally a kid couldn’t do on their own. And I’ve only known the guy for two months.” Grant Willard (16’) also said, “Mr. Bartels is transforming STEM education at Collegiate enormously. His knowledge for a wide range of disciplines allows him to mentor many students with different interests, and opens doors for exploration in a variety of fields.” Dalton Ruh (16’), a student in Mr. Bartels’ AP Computer Science class, said, “ Mr. Bartels always has something interesting to tell our class. Whether is be about robotics, engineering, computer science, physics, his band, or any life stories, I love listening to what he has to say. He is clearly a very knowledgeable and valuable person, and I am really glad he is a part of the Collegiate community.” Ben Greer (16’) another student who is working with Mr. Bartels, said, “Working with Mr. Bartels has been truly a pleasure. It is rare that you find someone with such an incredible amount of knowledge that is also so easy to work with and talk to and be around.” Even just through meeting him through an interview, I often found myself mesmerized by his stories. He has had so many different experiences in life, and I definitely see Mr. Bartels doing big things at Collegiate and making our community even better than it already is.