Members of the Rockettech group are shown making a presentation. (Staff Photo)
Members of the Rockettech group are shown making a presentation. (Staff Photo)

PANDORA — Ohio has been tagged as ‘the heart of it all.’ Mark Suter, Pandora-Gilboa teacher and, as of May 19, one of 10 teachers to place first in the Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation Teacher Innovator Award, is making sure that “heart” is full of entrepreneurial spirit.

With a portfolio of experience garnered working at Suter’s Produce followed by industry experience in Web and Video, Suter accepted a teaching position at P-G in 2010. As a tech instructor, he offered interested students the chance to stretch their visual communication and technology wings in the Rockettech club. Since it’s inception, Rockettech has been working directly with the economic development offices in Putnam and Allen counties to come up with creative solutions to what they’ve identified as a skilled labor shortage. While those entities, as well as other regional businesses served by Suter’s students, may not need web designers and video producers, he said they do need reliable, hard working people that show up everyday ready to work and get things done.

When Suter launched the club, he said he took a risk that his students would conduct themselves professionally in terms of leadership, quality standards, and all forms of communication. He said they did, and still do.

“It’s tricky running a tech club akin to a startup business because technically, we only have one period a day to cram in a lot of planning, training and execution of jobs for clients, but it’s that messiness that really makes us come up with creative solutions, ” he said.

The risk paid off, literally. Currently, Rockettech and its sister club P-G Engineering, led by Jessica Klass, create products and provide services for regional businesses. Suter hopes that programs like theirs will come to be recognized as models that can be integrated into any school system, public or private.

And as a Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation Teacher Innovator, Suter will spend July 25 - July 31 in a a week-long “Innovation Immersion Experience” at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, where he will take part in behind-the-scenes tours with curators and archivists, a teaching innovation workshop and a special recognition ceremony.

I think I won because Rockettech resembles the entrepreneurial spirit of The Henry Ford and it’s history,” said Suter. “I don’t know if there’s a ceiling to what we can do, so we’ll just keep expanding until we hit it. Then we’ll blow the roof off and keep going.”