Skip To Main Content

BHS teacher named 2024 Lake County High School Educator of the Year

May 9, 2024 - Barrington 220 is proud to announce that Barrington High School Computer Science teacher Thomas Bredemeier has been named the 2024 Lake County High School Educator of the Year. Bredemeier received the recognition at a special award ceremony on May 8 at the Lake County Fairgrounds. In addition, the following Barrington 220 staff members were nominated in the below categories:

  • Sandra Chang (Grove Avenue Elementary): Elementary/Early Childhood 
  • Kelly Gruenfeld (District Administrative Center): Service Personnel 
  • Jenny Morales (Grove Avenue Elementary): Diverse Learner Teacher 
  • Mike Nelson (Prairie Campus): Middle School
  • Michelle Tapia (Early Learning Center): School Administrator
  • Alejandra Vazquez (Station Campus): Early Career Educator
  • Tracy Walsh (Barbara B. Rose Elementary): Student Support 

To learn more about Mr. Bredemeier and his journey in Barrington 220, please read the nomination letter below written by Dr. Matt Fuller, Barrington 220's Assistant Superintendent of Technology & Innovation. 

As an Assistant Superintendent, I often get the opportunity to write recommendations. The truth is, even when I know a person well, I sometimes find it difficult to start writing. The case of nominating Barrington High School Computer Science teacher Thomas Bredemeier was no different, but I decided to get help—I set a small, yellow, rubber duck on the corner of my laptop and asked, “How is it possible to appropriately explain the qualities and activities of a teacher as innovative and respected as Mr. B. in less than four double-spaced pages?” In my conversation with the duck, this recommendation became far easier to write. You will learn more about the rubber duck below.

Photo of Thomas Bredemeier

Thomas Bredemeier, known to his students as “Mr. B.,” is a Computer Science Teacher at Barrington High School (BHS). Before entering the teaching profession, Mr. Bredemeier had run a manufacturing business for the first half of his adult life. After the events of 9/11 had a devastating impact on his business, he had the realization that “our lifetime is finite, and there comes a search for significance.” While in business, Mr. Bredemeier had led several high school youth group trips to Sweden, Peru, and Austria. During those trips, he had worked with young adults and found fulfillment while creating bonds through a common purpose that resulted in transformational experiences. He came to the conclusion that becoming a high school teacher might offer similar opportunities to make differences in students’ lives. At age 48, he went back to college full time and became certified as a high school math teacher. Eighteen years ago, he was hired as a math teacher at Barrington High School. Due to his experience as a computer programmer since the 1980s, he was asked to develop a brand new computer science curriculum at BHS.

During the past 12 years, Mr. Bredemeier has built a program that offers a full coding curriculum, including AP Computer Science, Data Structures, Advanced Topics, and several opportunities for students to pursue specialized opportunities such as Animation, Game Design, and Robotics. Mr. Bredemeier is also the teacher who helped develop the very first courses that allow high school students to learn to create apps for iPhone and iPad in our Mobile Apps development classes. These courses began at BHS and are now offered in about 50 high schools across the United States. 

We are proud to report that proportionately, BHS has more students taking computer programming classes than any other public, open-enrollment high school in the country. Anyone who spends even a few minutes in Mr. Bredemeier’s classroom will quickly understand why coding classes are so prevalent at BHS. As Mr. Bredemeier says, first and foremost, “Students matter more than content,” and he describes his classroom as “inviting by design.” Visitors will hear music spilling out into the hallway outside Mr. Bredemeier’s classroom, and between classes, you will see him greeting his students and conversing with other students near the door. His classroom is among the most open and welcoming learning environments I have ever encountered at any school.

Mr. Bredemeier was among the first teachers at BHS to fully embrace a blended learning model, where students have a choice of the time, place, path, and pace of their learning. Classes at the beginning of the Computer Science sequence provide more structure and support for students as they learn to become more independent and “own their learning,” while more advanced courses offer students a once-unprecedented level of autonomy. He explains, “Emulating a college format, my advanced classes officially only meet three times a week—Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The other two days are treated like office hours. I am in class all five days, but students don’t have to be there if they don’t want to. Interestingly, most come anyway because it is where they like to be.” 

During the flexible schedule days, students work individually and in small groups in the classroom. One student reported, “He runs the class so you learn how to collaborate with others.” It is also not unusual to find students who are not enrolled in his classes in the room. Another student explained, “Some of my friends come into the classroom even though they don’t take Computer Science because they want to be in this environment. If there is a new person who comes into the class, Mr. B. always welcomes them and learns their name.” 

Mr. Bredemeier describes every learning activity in his class as formative. He specifies, “Most assessments are online and may be taken whenever and wherever they want, inside or outside my classroom.” He also states that “because students are in charge of their learning, they can get any grade they desire in my classroom.” An advanced Computer Science student corroborated by saying, “His teaching style is very unique. He treats all his students with respect. He trusts us with our own learning, but he is also there to guide at the same time. You can get any grade you want. There’s not a ton of pressure.”

In addition to his courses, Mr. Bredemeier also works with students outside the classroom. He has been an evangelist for increasing the participation of female students in computer science and STEM as the “Gir1 C0de” club sponsor for the past 12 years. The club is described as a “fun and helpful community that encourages women to explore Computer Science and other STEM fields. No experience required.” One student who participated in this club reports that meetings are a safe space for members to ask questions, collaborate, and feel accepted without judgment in a traditionally male-dominated subject area. Mr. Bredemeier has also been the Robotics Team sponsor for the past 13 years. The Robotics Club allows students to participate in iterative, problem-solving activities and hold a variety of positions including design, engineering, programming, fundraising, and outreach opportunities with our elementary students.

I find it important to mention that each student with whom I spoke when preparing this nomination had at least one story to relate about how Mr. Bredemeier values each person individually. One student said, “Mr. B. was a reference when I was becoming an Eagle Scout—and he was an Eagle Scout. He is a person who gives his all. Whenever I am at a school event and I look for him, he is always there. He’s there to support.” Another student said, “He has a general love of everything and everyone. He is optimistic and happy. He taught me how easy it is to reach out to other people.” 

All students learn problem-solving skills in Mr. Bredemeier’s classes. This idea brings us back to the rubber ducks. Countless students have learned the “talk to the duck” technique from Mr. Bredemeier. This idea is well known to programmers as one way to solve problems while coding. One student mentioned that Mr. Bredemeier “wants you to figure it out by yourself, but if you need a helping hand, he’s there. He has rubber ducks you are supposed to talk to. If you just talk it through to the duck, you find the answer yourself. If you are still struggling, he’s right there to help you.” Another student added, “Computer Science can be frustrating, but this is a way you can practice problem solving without him just giving you an answer. And because it’s a rubber duck, it’s really fun.”

In my conversations with students, all of them mentioned that the duck technique works for them, and my conversation with the duck inspired me to include not just information about Mr. Bredemeier’s teaching, but also describe his character and spirit of innovation he brings to his students and others. If the nomination committee for the Lake County Classroom High School Teacher of the Year is having difficulty determining a winner, I highly recommend that they talk to the nearest rubber duck. I am confident that the duck will lead you to select Mr. Thomas Bredemeier.