From Fremd Student to Award Winning Engineering Teacher

When Michael Karasch looks back on the start of his freshman year at William Fremd High School, he admits he was not in the best position academically.   

“My family moved to the area just before my freshman year,” said Karasch, who graduated in 1999.  “I was not on the best path coming into that year.  I was not getting particularly good grades, but it was a fresh start at a new school and Fremd embraced me.” 

Following his college graduation, Karasch began working in computer programing, but did not feel that fit with his desire to help others. 

“I found that I really enjoyed helping other people rather than simply doing the work myself,” he said.  “I felt there must be something more. So, after assisting other teachers, I found I wanted to help make people the best they could be.” 

Sixteen years ago, that desire brought Karasch back to his alma mater, where he began teaching engineering at Fremd High School.  Currently he teaches two different engineering classes as well as a biology class.  He says there is a great overlap between science and engineering.   

“I heard it said once that the first time you try something, it’s science; the second time, it’s engineering,” Karasch said.  “In science, we talk about discovery, research, and development, whereas in engineering, we’re refining.  There is a giant overlap in where those things meet. When I teach science, I’m teaching engineering as well because we talk about recreating experiments and how to design their own experiments and how to revise their work.” 

Project Lead the Way President and CEO Vince Bertram presents the award for the PLTW Engineering Teacher of the Year to William Fremd High School Applied Technology teacher Michael Karasch October 25, 2021.

Karasch’s dedication to his students and dedication to the field of engineering was recognized in October when he was named the Project Lead the Way National Engineering Teacher of the Year. 

Following the announcement, Karasch said he was flattered. 

“I feel like there are a lot of people doing amazing work,” he said.  “The PLTW teachers across the country are some of the best people I met and have had the privilege to work with.  To be selected for this from among them is humbling.” 

After nearly two decades teaching engineering, Karasch said he still finds joy in his work and does his best to give his students the same sense of belonging Fremd gave him years ago. 

“The best thing about being an engineering teacher is that we get to play all day,” he said.  “I never have to explain why we are learning the things we are.  It’s all in the design.  There is no greater motivation than being able to help a student build something neat.” 

Karasch also finds joy in his work because e he can give back to his school. 

“Every time I’m here,” he said, “I feel like I am giving a little back to Fremd for everything they did for me.” 


D211 Post: William Fremd High School Named Among Distinguished High Schools by Project Lead The Way


Paul Hardy, Applied Technology Department Chair for William Fremd High School, discusses implementing wiring and design during an engineering class.

            William Fremd High School has been recognized as a Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Distinguished School for providing broad access to transformative learning opportunities for students through PLTW Engineering. It is one of just 133 high schools across the U.S. to receive this honor. PLTW is a nonprofit organization that serves millions of K-12 students and teachers in over 10,500 schools across the U.S.

            “I am very happy we received this,” said Applied Technology Department Chair Paul Hardy.  “One thing we pride ourselves on is the high percentage of returning students.”

           The PLTW Distinguished School recognition honors schools committed to increasing student access, engagement, and achievement in their PLTW programs. To be eligible for the designation, Fremd had to meet the following criteria:

  • Offer at least three PLTW courses;
  • Have 25 percent of students or more participate in PLTW courses, or of those who participated in PLTW, at least 33 percent took two or more PLTW courses;
  • Have 70 percent of students or more earn a Proficient or higher on PLTW End-of-Course Assessments, or 10 percent of students earn the AP + PLTW Student Achievement.

Through PLTW programs, students develop STEM knowledge as well as in-demand, transportable skills that they will use both in school and for the rest of their lives, on any career path they take.

Fremd High School freshman Nathan Hochhalter sends test signals from his iPad to a radio controlled car built as part of his engineering course project.

PLTW EngineeringTM empowers high school students to step into the role of an engineer and adopt a problem-solving mindset. Students engage in collaborative, real-life activities like working with a client to design a home, programming electronic devices or robotic arms, and exploring algae as a biofuel source.

           “It is a great honor to recognize William Fremd High School for their commitment to students,” said Vince Bertram, President and CEO of PLTW. “They are a model for what school should look like, and they should be very proud of ensuring students have the knowledge and skills to be career ready and successful on any career path they choose.”

           Township High School District 211 is part of a community of K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and corporate and philanthropic partners across the country united around a passion for providing students with inspiring, engaging, and empowering learning opportunities. For more information about PLTW’s recognition program, visit

           Hardy said the next step to continuing the program’s success, is to continue informing both parents and students of the availability of various engineering courses.

           “We have a lot of parents and students who are surprised to hear we have these programs,” Hardy said.  “Once the students complete their first class, a lot of them find they really enjoy it.”

A group of Fremd High School engineering students test drive radio controlled cars they designed. Students in the course had to design and power functional vehicles.