Teacher Profile: Bonnie Thoe-Austin in Minnesota

Hi Bonnie, can you tell me a little about yourself and what you do? 

Hello! My name is Bonnie Thoe-Austin and I have been a “shop” teacher (official title I guess would be a “Technology Education teacher”) for 15 years. I teach an array of classes; Construction, Pre-Engineering, Small Engines, Metals/Welding, and Photography/Videography. Often people are shocked when they discover this is my career... and I’ll get the question “how did you get into this kind of stuff?”. I grew up on a farm and my dad raised me to know tools, safety, and the importance of working through problems and completing a task. No magical story why I am a teacher though - at age 19 being a Tech Ed. teacher just sounded fun and up my alley, so I did it (haha)!


How did you hear about Roarockit? What inspired you to bring skateboard building into the classroom? 

I went to a “Geometry in Construction” training in Loveland, Colorado in 2014 where we learned a new method of instructing; incorporating a contextualized experience for core math classes. This particular company also created curriculum for AMPED (Algebra, Manufacturing, Process, Engineering, Design). As a part of their curriculum they included Roarockit kits; and this is where I first learned of your company!

The inspiration to bring skateboard building to my classroom came from working with my 9th grade AMPED class, which is the particular class at Park High School that I created the Roarockit skateboards with. This class is a group of students that have previously struggled with math and the skateboard curriculum offered a completely different outlook... one that applies math to “real life”. This project was perfect for better understanding the engineering process, measurement, scaling, accounting, creativity, learning a new skill, and taking pride in a very unique project. 

How do you feel this program benefits the classroom? How do you work this into your curriculum? 

The students discussed and studied the engineering design process prior to the board build, and as we built the boards we broke down each step along the way. Our Tech Ed. department recently added on an “Inventor Space” lab that includes 3D printers, laser engravers, and a vinyl cutter & printer which we were able to use for the final design of the board. Students created sketches and prototypes leading up to the final application. 

The students benefited in multiple areas by completing the boards; self-pride, overcoming mental and physical challenges, working together, and gaining confidence and resilience. 


What were the students’ reactions to getting to build skateboards in the classroom? Do you have any special stories to share of the effects it had on your students? 


This particular crew of kids were/are “at risk” ... so it takes a lot to gain their attention. The initial reaction was almost like, “Ok, really? Skateboards? Ok.... I’ll believe it when I see it.” Haha.

The coolest story is the ending. I had 19 students in the class and 13 students completed a board. The 6 that did not complete a full board still participated either by working with another student, sanding, scraping, or gluing.

When we started the project I knew that the kids would not be able or even want to pay for a skateboard so the Tech Ed. department paid for the kits. I figured the students that wanted trucks and wheels could pay for them.

Halfway through the skateboard build I called up a local indoor skateboard shop/park in Minneapolis, Minnesota called 3rd Lair and explained the class and what we were doing. They were just awesome to talk with... so, I set up a field trip! That meant that now the students had an incentive; boards had to be done by April 22 in order to go on the field trip to 3rd Lair where the students got a skateboard lesson, motivational pep talk by the ramp builder & owner, and then were able to ride (using 3rd Lair equipment) all day. Trucks and wheels were $70....as time got closer to the field trip I realized no one was going to be able to pay for the trucks/wheels. The week before the trip I asked the principal if I could do a superhero move and ask for donations so that the students that wanted trucks and wheels could get them... she then made the superhero move, and paid for ALL trucks/wheels for any kid that wanted them! Then the day of the field trip came along and the students brought their boards to 3rd Lair, picked out their wheels, assembled their boards, received a skate lesson, and SKATED on the boards they built! It was AWESOME!!!


How did it turn out? Are the students riding their boards afterwards, or do they use them more as an art project? 

11 students got trucks and wheels. 1 of the 11 boards snapped so he took his wheels off and put them on a different board and hung his board up in his room. 2 of the boards were art décor projects. 

bonnie teacher collage 1.jpg

 How were you able to get skateboard building started in your class, did you have to jump through any administrative hoops to get there? 

No hoops! As a Tech Ed. teacher we have money for projects and supplies, and that is what we used to start the project. In the future; we will use the Roarockit kits as an incentive for our Pre-Engineering course “How to Make Almost Anything” that uses the “Inventor Space” to create. It will work out perfectly! 


Thanks again for your time Bonnie, any last words for the readers back home? 

I really want to come to a teacher training at your facility so I can learn more about the boards and the process... and I wish I was a better skateboarder haha! Thank you!!! 

About Bonnie:

Bonnie has an undergrad from UW-Stout and a Masters of Edu. from Texas State. She has previously lived in Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas, and Alaska and now resides in her home state of Minnesota with her husband (who is also a teacher) and two little boys.

Taryn O'Grady,
Social Media Expert, Roarockit Skateboard Company