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FWBHS Engineering Teacher receives “Thank A Teacher” Award, his students honored for life-changing project

On Friday, March 29, at Fort Walton Beach High School, Engineering Teacher Frank Schwandt was surprised with the "Thank A Teacher" recognition from HCA Florida Healthcare, followed by his students receiving District Challenge Coins for their life-changing work on a motorized vehicle for a special needs elementary student.

In a heartwarming ceremony at Fort Walton Beach High School, Engineering Teacher Frank Schwandt was honored with the “Thank A Teacher” award from HCA Florida Healthcare.

  • The surprise event, held around 10:00 am, was attended by students, faculty, and district staff who gathered to celebrate Schwandt’s dedication and positive impact on his students.

Erika Williams, a faculty member at the high school and parent of a former student, nominated Schwandt for the award. Her son Kaden Williams, who was once a student of Schwandt’s, is now pursuing engineering at UCF. 

Caroline Burris, Chief Operating Officer at HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital, presented Schwandt with a plaque and a $250 award after reading the nomination.

Here’s what Ms. Williams wrote:

“Mr. Schwandt has inspired a lot of students with his teaching to pursue engineering post high school, which includes my son. After 4 years in Mr. Schwandt’s class, my son went to UCF to further his engineering knowledge.

Mr. Schwandt has dedicated much of his time to the program, a robotics building team, and helping make each student successful. Recently, he led one of his classes in building not 1, but 2 electric mobility chairs for a local handicap student.

He is a coworker that doesn’t look for praise and does things to create successful engineering students. He constantly asks about former students and is always sending them positive words.”

Immediately following Schwandt’s recognition, his Senior Engineering class received a surprise of their own. 

Earlier this year, the students had worked on a special Capstone Project, utilizing their engineering, mechanical, and 3D Design skills to modify a motorized vehicle for a special needs student at Destin Elementary. 

  • The project was a collaboration between the student’s teacher, the child’s Occupational Therapy Teacher, and Schwandt, who worked together to secure a grant for the vehicle.

On February 22, 2024, the students presented the modified motorized vehicle to the elementary student.

The impact of their work was significant, as Fort Walton Beach High School Principal Lindsey Smith noted, “Because of this new motorized vehicle that the students worked on, the elementary student was able to participate in his first-ever field day this year.”

In recognition of their efforts, Assistant Superintendent John Spolski surprised each Engineering student with a District Challenge Coin. 

“The coin says that ‘everyone is important’ and what you all did together as a group made that little fella experience things he had never done before,” said Spolski to the students. “It is my honor to present this to you from Superintendent Marcus Chambers. You can keep this close to you, and when you see it, know the good work that you’re capable of and the things that you do to change people’s lives.”

Superintendent Chambers was able to visit the students’ classroom while they were working on the project earlier this year.

“I am so proud of these high school students as they are thinking beyond their own needs in order to help another person,” Chambers said. “This is going to be life changing for everyone involved and I can’t wait to see the student using the vehicle to get around at school and home.”

The students who helped make this happen were all part of Thursday’s CTE Signing Day and include:

  • Elijah Campbell
  • Williams Willis
  • Reeve, Dwyer
  • Alex Porter
  • Sophie Wunschel
  • Jalen Floyd
  • Edwin Ramirez
  • Landon Tryon
  • Pablo Rogers
  • Jesse Watkins
  • Liam Pohl
  • Alexander Doyle

As the surprise event concluded, Principal Smith addressed the students, saying, “Mobility is something we all take for granted every day. It is the most independent and freeing thing to allow somebody to be able to get around on their own, and he would have never been able to do that until he was older and stronger. You guys figured out a way to adapt, and it’s really impressive work. You guys are awesome.”

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Community Comments

“Would like to know this as well.”
“This is Awesome/ Thank You for Your Service Reuse an Recycle”
“Carolyn, there is two of them this year, the one at the fairgrounds is still on the 27th”
“I thought this was scheduled for April 27th at Fair grounds in FWB.”
“Is there a limit on the amount?”
“Couldn’t the tennis courts be used for Pickle Ball Courts?”
“How come we haven't heard about any charges or anything about the person who hit this lady ?”
“Stayed at the Calypso resort last week. Overran with immaturity. Teens were throwing beer bottles from the balcony and dog shit while kids were swimming in the pools below.”