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Meet the winner of the The Information & Observer and Herald-Solar’s Schooling Superhero ballot

Tim Velegol has labored with US Navy officers and NASA scientists, however the engineer knew he all the time needed to be a classroom instructor.

Seventeen years in the past, Velegol made the profession change from being an engineer to instructing engineering at Riverside Excessive Faculty in Durham.

Now the readers of The Information & Observer and The Herald-Solar have voted Velegol, 62, as this 12 months’s Triangle Schooling Superhero winner.

“I firmly consider that my choice as a Triangle Schooling Superhero is a mirrored image on the efforts of the extraordinary engineering college and excellent educational instructors at Riverside Excessive Faculty, with out whom a rigorous program like this could not survive,” stated Velegol, the engineering program director at Riverside.

“It’s by way of the arduous work of those folks, the efforts of the scholars and households impressed by them, and the continuing assist of the CTE Central Workplace that we have been capable of serve the Durham neighborhood with the aim to empower these youngsters to be future prepared. They’re all superheroes.”

However Velegol’s many supporters say he deserves the accolades for all of the arduous work he is put in to make Riverside’s nationally recognized engineering program.

“Mr. Velegol is mind-blowing,” stated Christine Barboriak, a Riverside Excessive guardian who nominated Velegol. “The quantity of labor that he does and the quantity of care he reveals within the college students is superb.”

Labored on nuclear reactors

Velegol is a local of West Virginia who can hint his curiosity in schooling to hanging round his maternal grandparents. His grandfather was a math instructor and highschool soccer coach. His grandmother was an elementary faculty particular schooling instructor.

However Velegol opted to pursue engineering and graduated from Ohio State College with a level in mechanical engineering.

His profession path took him to Basic Electrical, the place he turned a licensed nuclear plant operations engineer. Velegol spent six years working round nuclear reactors as he educated Naval officers to function the Trident class submarine.

“It inculcated in me a want to be mission pushed for no matter I pursued in life,” he stated.

However the younger engineer additionally needed to see the world so he launched into a number of job adjustments, together with interning with a French car elements producer in Paris. He additionally labored in administration at Barnes & Noble, opening new bookstores.

Velegol returned to his engineering roots in 2000 doing aerospace engineering for a NASA subcontractor. He was concerned within the administration of the Aqua and Aura satellite tv for pc missions to review Earth’s environment and local weather.

Midlife profession change

By 2006, Velegol stated he felt he might financially afford the change from engineering to instructing.

”It has been a wild journey, however one of many deep drives I’ve had is to wish to train,” he stated.

Velegol initially turned his consideration to the NC Faculty of Science and Arithmetic, a residential boarding faculty in Durham serving a few of the state’s most academically gifted highschool juniors and seniors. The varsity is a part of the UNC System and lately opened a western North Carolina campus in Morganton.

Former classmates pitched the virtues of residing within the Triangle, whereas associates within the workplace of former US Sen. Jay Rockefeller promoted NCSSM’s educational accomplishments.

Velegol requested about turning into a math or science instructor at NCSSM earlier than studying that there was a gap for an engineering instructor at Riverside Excessive.

“People who find themselves in my scenario who’ve been contemplating midlife profession adjustments, I actually hope they appear to be my expertise as one thing that makes them think about making an identical transfer,” Velegol stated. “Schooling is not for everyone, however on the finish of the day you have to love working with youngsters.

“You have to be dedicated to creating a distinction one child at a time.”

‘This mission is vitally essential’

Velegol has helped oversee a significant enlargement of Riverside’s engineering program, making it a draw for college students throughout Durham. This system has grown from 90 college students, two college members and 4 programs to 450 college students, seven college members and 11 programs.

Riverside is a part of the Challenge Lead the Means Initiative, a nationwide effort to assist information college students into careers in STEM (science, expertise, engineering and math) fields.

Riverside has been named a Challenge Lead The Means Distinguished Faculty for 5 consecutive years. In 2021, he was acknowledged because the Challenge Lead The Means Excellent Administrator of the 12 months.

Velegol is now an envoy for Durham Public Faculties and public colleges typically.

“I really feel like this enterprise, this mission is vitally essential to all of us,” Velegol stated. “You’d suppose at age 62 I might be extra jaded and cynical.”

‘Durham is fortunate to have him’

As this system has grown, Velegol needed to step away from instructing to turn into an administrator. He says he misses instructing, however he is now concerned in maintaining on all 450 engineering college students.

Velegol has common one-on-one talks with the scholars, resembling 45-minute interviews with each junior and senior about their future plans.

He retains monitor of the grades and sophistication schedules for all of the engineering college students, together with reaching out to them to ask if there’s an issue if he sees any drop in efficiency.

Barboriak, the Riverside guardian, is grateful for the way Velegol instructed her son final Could that he nonetheless hadn’t registered but for fall 2022 courses. That led Barboriak to understand that the registration system had glitched once they had signed up for courses. They have been capable of catch the error earlier than all of the courses have been crammed up.

Barboriak says Velegol is the additional set of eyes that each guardian needs their youngster has.

“The man most likely has a clone of himself,” Barboriak stated. “Durham is fortunate to have him.”

‘Wonderful leaders’

Velegol is in fixed contact with college students, even when it is over summer time break or he is on trip, in line with Mary Walters, 18, a senior.

“He simply actually needs to assist the scholars succeed and do the very best they’ll,” Walters stated. “He actually takes the day out of his day to be supportive of the scholars.”

The engineering program has a way of neighborhood that Aiden Messersmith, 18, a junior, credit Velegol.

“After I consider Mr. Velegol, I consider a form, caring, nice, superb chief who may help you get by way of any issues you’ve,” Messersmith stated. “His door is all the time open.”

Velegol is happy with how 95% of the engineering college students will go on to school. Not all the scholars will go on to engineering packages. Walters stated Velegol was nothing however encouraging when she instructed him of her plans to review veterinary drugs in school.

“He was actually supportive and instructed me that veterinary drugs could be a great match for my character,” Walters stated.


Velegol is considered one of 18 folks nominated when The N&O and The Herald-Solar requested for names of these working in Triangle Okay-12 colleges who make a huge impact within the lives of scholars — maybe with out a lot public recognition.

Readers gave nominated candidates and narrowed them all the way down to 4 finalists in the course of the previous few weeks of voting within the Schooling Superhero ballot. The final spherical of voting ended final week.

The finalists, together with Velegol, have been Lauren Casteen, an English and social research instructor at Northern Excessive Faculty in Durham; Aveni Ghosh, the counselor at McDougle Elementary Faculty in Carrboro; and Mary Hunter Martin, the librarian and magnet program coordinator at Partnership Elementary Faculty in Raleigh.

All 4 finalists need to be named the Triangle Schooling Superhero, Velegol stated.

“Coping with youngsters on the dimensions and quantity that we’ve to is a large job,” Velegol stated. “It’s important to have a certain quantity of resilience and a love of the youngsters to make it work.”


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