“Chillax,” said Providence Academy Science teacher Daniel Hickel when asked what word comes to mind when he thinks of high school.
“It was the coolest word in the early 2000s,” Hickel added defensively after revealing his class’ senior word “chillax”. Perhaps the word is no longer widely used, but Hickel’s relaxed nature, compassionate relationship with students, and excitement for his discipline still carry with them an element of the seemingly well-worn word.
The much-loved Science teacher’s compassion for students is rooted in his experiences from high school. Hickel was most impacted by teachers who understood that students have responsibilities and activities outside the classroom. He valued the relationships he was able to build with these teachers as a result of their patience and understanding.
The impact of his own teachers led Hickel to strive to be a considerate and understanding teacher while also pushing his students to succeed.
Physics student Mary Rillens Lee ‘22 commented, “You can feel his energy when you walk into the classroom and see his passion for teaching in how he helps students.”
“I love what I teach. It’s my hope that my interest, passion, and enthusiasm about science make students think differently about the world around them,” Hickel noted.
Physics isn’t an easy class, but Hickel’s energetic approach complemented by his relaxed nature makes him approachable and the course material more accessible.
“No matter how long it takes, Mr. Hickel is always determined to make sure I understand the material before I walk out the door,” Lee reflected happily.
Parts of Hickel’s relaxed high school self keep him in tune with a high school student’s schedule and priorities such that he can relate to his students and build relationships with them.
“He is who he shows his students he is. He isn’t a different person outside the classroom,” reflected Hickel’s friend of seven years, Providence Academy Math teacher Ms. Erika Greene.
Greene commented that this authenticity is very important to Hickel. He truly loves having meaningful connections and relationships with his students. She believes he has the perfect balance of being his energetic, friendly self while also expecting respect and proper conduct from students.
Always eager to help his students, Hickel advises, “Don’t take life too seriously.”
He reflected that throughout all his schooling, jobs, and life in general, he has always been able to make anything fun.
He added energetically, “Because if I didn’t, I would go crazy!”
This mentality is truly present in his teaching and, according to Hickel, was also present when he was in high school.
Hickel embarrassingly recalled the day he dissected a pig in biology class, during which he unraveled the intestines and wore them like a necklace. In hindsight, it wasn’t the most respectful decision, but, seasoned by more prudence and maturity, the same lighthearted, goofy mindset permeates his personality today.
Hickel recalled another high school memory in which his chemistry teacher accidentally started her sleeve on fire with a Bunsen burner. Despite the fact that her students had to spray her with a fire extinguisher, she was able to laugh about it afterward. This taught Hickel that science can be fun and accidents happen, but you can always laugh about it in the end.
Whether Hickel is smiling enthusiastically while his students launch tennis balls for a physics project, or using his distinctly expressive voice to teach a lesson, he never fails to get his students excited about his life’s passion: science.