Polk County High School chemistry teacher Leslie Rhinehart has been selected as a 2020-21 Kenan Fellowship for Teacher Leadership, one of 19 selected across the state.

As a Kenan Fellow, Rhinehart will participate in several professional development experiences throughout the year. She hopes these opportunities expand her teaching ability as well as her leadership in the county, district and state.

Rhinehart spent three weeks this summer at Eaton Corporation in Forest City for an immersive work experience.

“I got to observe and learn firsthand how a major industry in our area dealt with our new pandemic world,” she said. “New state of the art temperature station, masks at all times, six feet separation as well as not shaking hands upon first introductions.

“While practicing our new social protocols, I was still able to observe line workers, supervisors and other staff all the way up to the plant manager. A common thread heard throughout the different departments and supervisors was that students need to be willing to work hard, to show up and to be willing to learn. These are much the same principles we are always trying to get our students to see.

“I think it comes down to one word – perseverance. Can you get up every morning and go to work, persevere through a headache, body aches or just plain wanting to do something else? Can you work through problems thrown at you that do not have one correct answer – persevere through failure? Can you keep looking and searching for that answer, learning a new way to solve a problem and learn another method for your solution – persevere through a certification process, a degree program?”

Rhinehart will document her Kenan experience via a blog at https://kenanfellows.org/2021-lrhinehart/.

“Working at Eaton has been like being on location for ‘How It’s Made.’ I am always mesmerized watching industrial machines work and wondering how the person came up with the idea and, most importantly, the implementation,” she said. “How many times did they fail before it worked? Watching the braiders spin so fast, knowing it is like lacing a maypole, makes me wonder if that was the inspiration. Instead of kids skipping around and through each other, the bobbins are spinning around gears and mechanisms to produce a covering for a hose. Ever look at the threading of a braided hose and wonder how they do that? I now know.”

Rhinehart thanked Facebook’s Forest City Data Center for sponsoring her fellowship and her mentor, Lori Ray in the Human Resources Department at Eaton, for making all the necessary arrangements for scheduling and following all the COVID-19 and OSHA regulations to be present in an industrial environment.

“Many thanks to all those at Eaton who made my experience enlightening and sharing with me their thoughts on how I can encourage my students for different life paths,” Rhinehart said. “I look forward to all the many new experiences this Kenan Fellowship will allow me to grow as a teacher and as a leader for public schools.”