Rob Wedge: Earning While Learning

By Anika Prakash

“The Posh Palace of Wedgeritaville”

“Prius”  

“Does that make sense?”

“Fix The Structure Fix The Future”

“Dad”

There are many phrases used to describe Upper School economics teacher Rob Wedge, but “average” is not one of them. Wedge strives to be better than a conventional teacher. He is willing to discuss seemingly unrelated topics, and yet he will seamlessly tie it all back to his curriculum. Not only that, but he continually attempts to improve teaching tactics and implement progressive ideas to ensure a better education for his students.

Wedge is famous for imparting his wisdom to his students with his famous life lessons as both an AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics teacher. As fascinated as Wedge is with the inner workings of the economy, he did not always want to teach economics. Initially, he wanted to teach United States history due to his fascination with political science. However, at his first teaching job in Winchester, Massachusetts, the school needed an economics teacher, and Wedge was the only one who had a sufficient background to fulfill this position, with his three bachelor’s degrees from Boston University in history, political science, and education. 

Wedge and Collegiate students at the New York Stock Exchange. Photo courtesy of Collegiate School.

This job gave Wedge the opportunity to enter a team from Winchester High School into the FED Challenge, a competition where students present on the current state of the economy and offer recommendations about monetary policy. His team not only won the rigorous competition, but the victory also earned him a job at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. At this prestigious position, he found a passion for economics and met his wife Barbara. The newlywed couple moved to Richmond in 2004 after Wedge found a job at Collegiate School through support from the Powell Economic Education Foundation.

Anyone who has taken one of Wedge’s classes knows that he does not believe in the traditional grading scheme. Instead, he has created his own system that is based on the concept of a student earning their grade while learning about aspects of paychecks and taxes. Essentially, students earn “money” for each question they get right on tests, quizzes, and homework. They are taxed for behavior that is considered harmful to other students and subsidized for actions that create an effective learning environment, like asking a thought-provoking question.

At the end of the semester, the amount of money one has earned correlates to a letter grade. To prepare his students for college, Wedge uses the Final Exam and Midterm as the main determinant of one’s grade, because he believes assessments should test the net knowledge gained in the course. The concept behind this methodology is that students will not be distracted by grades and complicated systems of grading. The final grading philosophy is based on the methods of Steve Levy, a teacher who has won numerous state and national awards, who would start off the year with no desks so that his young students could earn them with consistent good behavior. Fundamentally, these practices have shown students the value of hard work, as Wedge states, “they should have the mentality of thinking of what they have gained from an assessment, not just what it is out of.”

Walking into Wedge’s classroom, one can see the row of awards lined up over the projector, although he is too humble to even acknowledge their existence. These awards are from numerous economic competitions. Wedge has won the 2008 and 2009 FED Challenges with his students at Collegiate, as well as other economics-based competitions, such as the Euro Challenge in 2010. Furthermore, he was named the 2011 Outstanding Economic Educator of the Year by the Virginia Council on Economic Education. Wedge finds more gratification in seeing his students use the education they have been earned and implement it beyond their years at Collegiate. 

As a result of Wedge’s effective teaching methods, more students have started to enroll in his classes since his arrival 13 years ago. The number of sections of economics taught has spiked from one section composed of nine students in 2004 to 11 sections of economics in the 2014-2015 school year.

Wedge and his father at a Steelers game. Photo credit: Rob Wedge.

Wedge’s impact on the school community extends beyond the classroom. He has been a resource on the Faculty Health Team to “engage students and faculty in conversations about drug and alcohol use in the Collegiate community.” Wedge’s guidance of the Darr Davis Investment Board has allowed the group to fund many of the clubs around campus with the profits they have made in the stock market. Moreover, he enjoys sponsoring the Sports Discussion Club and The Deb Angstadt Wiffle Ball Tournament. After school, he has worked as a coach for both Cub football and Cub basketball. However, he has not participated in the Cougar Classic with fear of being dunked on by Middle School P.E. teacher Kevin Coffey. Finally, he helps organize Feast of Juul with Upper School Dean of Students Mark Palyo and creates the infamous “Santa’s list” with “gifts” for all the senior boys each year. With what little free time they have, the Wedges enjoy attending Pittsburgh Steelers’ football games with the season tickets his family waited 33 years for.

He is a man who is willing to eat an entire packet of Oreos, even though he is allergic to chocolate, to demonstrate the concept of marginal utility in a memorable manner. Wedge is a person who will wake up at five o’clock in the morning to get donuts for a Darr Davis Club meeting. He is a youthful individual who would eat only fried food for the entirety of the Model Congress trip. It is hard to find a teacher quite like Rob Wedge.

Featured image courtesy of Collegiate School.