As both a scientist and a teacher, Doth is incredibly passionate about STEM. That fervor translates to his students.
“He’s one of those guys that brings not just passion to his subject, but also to his kids,” said principal Dan Carstens. “It’s an excitement. Kids are excited to be in his class.”
Doth’s infectious energy has rallied interest in science education at Nikiski Middle School.
“The guy is like the Pied Piper, because whatever he does, the kids want to do with him,” Carstens said.
When some of his high-flying eighth grade boys weren’t able to finish a laminar flow machine project they’d been working on before the end of the school year, Doth told them he was proud of them for what they’d done, even though he didn’t expect to see them next year. But when students came back in the fall as freshmen, they asked if they could sneak into the back of the classroom and keep working. It wasn’t for points. It wasn’t for bragging rights. It was for the love of science — a love that Doth nurtured with his unrelenting enthusiasm and tireless support.
“They were a tremendous group of young men,” Doth said. “You look at them in high school, and they’re in completely different groups, yet they built this together. They were a team. They’ll probably never do a sleepover at each others’ houses, probably never go to a party together. But in my room, they were brothers in arms. If science can do that, it transcends any textbook you can buy.”
Eighth grader Kaitlyn Johnson couldn’t pinpoint what specifically makes her teacher so special, but her myriad of answers circled back to one theme: He’s a champion for his students, whether that’s taking extra time to explain a concept through a multitude of learning styles so the whole class understands or supporting their ideas in a way that makes them feel like they matter.
Like when some students came to him with a plan to make an air bazooka and Doth stayed late after school and came in on weekends to help see it to completion.
And he actively seeks out opportunities for his students to grow.
He brought in a 180-gallon aquarium and allowed his students to pick a country to “put in the tank.” They picked Afghanistan, and together they spent a year putting the different environmental elements of that country — everything from light to temperature to humidity to animal life — into the tank, creating a portal to another place in his Nikiski classroom. Then they did it again with Costa Rica, making it possible for students to take real water samples and look at how real species of plants react to different rain and humidity levels.
“It can’t get more relevant than that — when you can see it and touch it in your classroom every day,” Doth said.
And when an email went out from University of Alaska Fairbanks about creating unmanned aerial vehicles, he signed his students up. Now those eighth grade students are 3-D printing and wiring drones that are flying fully-automated missions with hands-off computer generated GIS, GPS and mapping software with thermal imaging cameras.
And to think, he never intended to become a teacher. He graduated pre-med and was set to be a doctor. But after realizing that wasn’t for him, he started a Ph.D. program in molecular biology. When his tuition money ran out, he wasn’t sure what to do, so he set out from Minnesota for Alaska, ending up in Nikiski.
“I think all that run-around business was to show me that this is exactly where I belong,” Doth said. “I will never get a Ph.D., I will never be a doctor, I will never teach at a college, and I’m so glad. I’m glad I ran out of money and ended up here. I’m not sure if that’s romantic or irresponsible, but either way, it means I have a job working with amazing kids every day.”