Patrick Wanninkhof lived his life to the fullest. At STEMteachersNYC we are lucky to have called him a colleague and fortunate to have had him as a board member who helped drive our organization to be the best that we could be – just as he lived his own life. Patrick was a teacher, like many of us, but he was far from typical. He was a bass player and musician who played in bands. He was an exceptional student who graduated from University of Florida with honors. Following university and Teach for America service, he stayed in the public school system so that he could reach kids from every background with his enthusiasm for science. He was a cyclist who combined his love of riding with his passion for social justice with the group Bike and Build where he worked to actively contribute to solutions for the homeless. Patrick Wanninkhof was an inspiration amongst us, at 25.
On his Bike and Build webpage which is still open for donations (http://bikeandbuild.org/rider/7778), Patrick reminded us eloquently that we must do more for our young people today who should be given the very basic rights to safety and security in order to learn,
“To fix systemic inequities which burden our nation, we need a systemic approach to fighting poverty. Education reform will be fruitless if we cannot guarantee that every child can return to a safe home in the evening. The quest for Affordable Housing for each American runs parallel to my dedication for bringing each student an excellent education. Only by simultaneously addressing both these issues can we guarantee the prosperity of each person in our nation.”
Patrick had a generosity of spirit and good will that permeated every relationship he had. His love of his family, his commitment to his students, and his dedication to his friends and colleagues was tremendous. He simply approached his time on this planet as a supremely caring member of Team Humanity and affected everyone in his sphere. Those who knew him will never forget his smile and uplifting exuberance.
Joe Kremer, a STEMteachersNYC board member and regular workshop presenter worked closely with Patrick in the organization, “Patrick’s ride across the country was another indication of his steadfast commitment to the underprivileged. He stayed at the school where he was placed through TFA and became a respected voice in his community. He was a huge inspiration to me in this way, and we had many conversations about how our group as a whole can remain focused on bringing excellent science teaching to the underserved.”
Gideon Levy, a STEMteachersNYC group member wrote, “He did everything with a smile and was the exact type of person students need and teachers strive to be. I knew him through Teach For America as he helped me interview with schools, survive the early phases of teaching, and ultimately push me to discover this amazing group and a love for teaching science. The world and STEM education has lost a true beacon for change.”
We lost Patrick senselessly this summer to more than an accident; the world lost Patrick because of the selfishness represented by a driver texting – because an individual’s own momentary need was put above the safety of innocent others. We can be better than this – Patrick certainly was. Each and every one of us can honor Patrick by being the best we can be as a human being contributing to a better world – he certainly lived his young life this way and so can we.