Dr. Benjamin Wrubel must have made the right decision eight years ago when he changed careers, switching from his podiatry practice to teach biology at in Stratford.
This month the state Department of Education announced that Wrubel is one of four Connecticut teachers nominated as a finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, the highest recognition that an American math or science teacher can receive.
"This is like the Academy Award for science teachers," Wrubel said. He added that he felt doubly honored because he was proposed as a candidate by Bunnell physics teacher .
'Loving it' at Bunnell High
At Bunnell, Wrubel teaches advanced placement biology, an intensive course that could earn college credits for students, as well as anatomy and physiology.
But he started as a foot doctor, practicing in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. "I'm still licensed to practice medicine," he said.
About a decade ago, Wrubel was living in Stratford (he still does) and practicing in Meriden when he felt he was no longer growing as a learner and noticed how much he liked giving lectures to other doctors.
"I felt I wanted to do more," he said.
So he attended Southern Connecticut State University for his certification as a high school biology teacher. While he was doing his student teaching at Stratford High School a job opened up at Bunnell and he applied.
"Now I'm here and I'm loving it," he said.
Outside Classroom Doors
Teaching lets him educate teenagers and be creative about his lessons. It also gives him more time for his other artistic avocations -- painting, photography and writing.
Wrubel said he published a book of poetry several years ago and will soon publish a book of commentary and philosophical essays illustrated with photographs he has taken.
At Bunnell, he is also the advisor of the environment club, known as Students Karing About the Environment, Nature and Gardening; and doubles as the coordinator for Project Greenhouse, which allows students to grow plants in the school greenhouse and courtyards. He is the liaison for "The Farm at Stratford," the community garden and learning center at Pirhala Farm on Connors Lane next to Bunnell High School.
The Presidential Award Judging Process
Wrubel noted that he is only at the beginning of the judging process for the Presidential Award. Following the nomination phase, there is a second round of judging to narrow down the nominees to one math and one science teacher from each state.
But that doesn't guarantee the finalist that he or she would be selected as an award recipient. The last finalists are referred to the White House where they are judged again to make sure they would qualify for the prestigious award.
"I'm at the beginning of that whole process," he said, but he feels it is an honor just to be nominated for the award.