Class is in Session with Mr. Hinze

By Joe Clarke | May 03, 2016, 6 p.m. (ET)

Nate Hinze (left), Christina Schwab (top right) and John Gilbert (bottom right) all balance life on the court and in the classroom.

What was your favorite subject in school? Math? History? P.E.? No matter what subject or class you enjoyed the most, it is important to remember and acknowledge those who guided you along the way.

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Day, here is a look at four “subjects” Nate Hinze of U.S. Wheelchair Basketball mastered to get to where he is as a physical education teacher and Paralympian.

“I try to keep my classes’ upbeat and engaging, a lot like our basketball practices” Hinze said. “I use a lot of the same drills we do in practice at our middle school basketball practices.”

Relating his skills on the court to skills in the classroom allows for students to feel more engaged while participating in friendly competitions and build confidence to do well in school. Hinze knows that the road to success requires more than just being competitive and that dedication to one’s craft is just as crucial.

“The largest influences on my teaching career are definitely the students I teach, and all the teachers I had in the past,” Hinze noted. “Throughout my education I can always look back at all the teachers I had and how they molded me into the person I am today. All of the teachers at each level had a significant impact on me and how I want to be viewed as a teacher. Their actions also showed me how impactful a teacher can be on a student.”

So where did Hinze get his passion to teach and help others? A summer job as a swim coach proved to be a real indicator that he was made for the classroom.
“My summer job in high school was teaching swimming lessons,” the Wisconsin native said. “Having ‘students’ who were able to learn a new skill and see their progress in two short weeks was very exciting and rewarding. That experience, combined with my passion for sports and being active, made the decision to become a physical education teacher a very easy one.”

His love for teaching allows Hinze to fully engage with his students and be proactive with his teaching methods.

“I think the most rewarding part of being a teacher is getting to work with all the students on a daily basis,” he said. “I probably learn as much from them as they do from me, and I truly mean that. I also love teaching middle school because you get to see them grow up and mature when they move to high school.”

Hinze credits his wife, who is also a teacher, as his greatest supporter.  When asked what teachers he wanted to thank on Teacher Appreciation Day, Hinze’s answer is simple.

“If I had to pick one teacher to celebrate it would probably be my wife,” he said. “She does an amazing job of helping students achieve by connecting with them so they can feel empowered and motivated. She is easily one of the best teachers I have ever seen.”

Having such great support at home allows Hinze the opportunity to focus on work as well as training, especially during a Paralympic year.

“Fortunately for me, my wife is an awesome partner to have and she supports me by watching our daughter a lot when I train and workout,” Hinze claimed. “It isn't easy being married to an athlete who is trying to reach the Paralympics, but she does an awesome job and makes it look pretty easy.”

Whether it is competitiveness, dedication, desire or support, these four “subjects” can serve as building blocks to a fantastic career in any field and Nate Hinze is living proof. The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater product has his eye on making his second U.S. Paralympic Team this summer.

As extra credit, fellow wheelchair basketball players and teachers John Gilbert and Christina Schwab were asked a few questions about their experiences as teachers and athletes.

John Gilbert

  • What does teaching mean to you?
    • “Teaching is the opportunity to help young adults become successful in their life. I love being able to share my knowledge of science with them and help them understand the world around us. There is not a better feeling then when one of my kids has the ‘light bulb’ moment and understands what we are discussing in class.”
  • Who are the major influences in your teaching career?
    • “I would have to say my mentor teacher at my current school. Peggy Carney brought me under her wing and supported me through all the questions and hardships that come with your first couple years of teaching. She was always there to give me guidance and I am forever thankful for that.”
  • What do you find most rewarding about being a teacher?
    • “The most rewarding part of being a teacher is when you see former students becoming successful in the ‘real’ world. When both former students and current students come up to talk to you outside of school, it shows that we as teachers are having an impact on a student’s life.”

Christina Schwab

  • What do you find most rewarding about working with children?
    • “The thing I find most rewarding in my classroom are the little things. I work with a specific population (autism) and have learned to appreciate the small changes each day. That is progress. Every day these kids amaze me with their abilities and I am so glad I have the chance to be a part of their lives.”
  • How are you able to relate what you do on the court and the track to what you do in the classroom?
    • “I think that through basketball, from coaching and playing a leadership role, I have learned that not everyone learns or retains information the same way. This allows me to work with individual students and help them learn in their own ways.”
  • Any teachers (or friends that are teachers) you want to celebrate on National Teacher Day?
    • “Teresa LaFay, Valerie Stokeld, Mindy Thompson, Lindsey Speck & everyone at Kaiser Elementary. Amy (Crow) Spangler. And of course, Patty Cisneros Prevo.”

For more information on Wheelchair Basketball, go to

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