Mr. Kolbe: BHSEC’s Computer Lab Founder Says Goodbye

Rainer Turim, ‘18

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Technology Coordinator, Mr. Kolbe next to Professor Walk’s farewell note Photo credit: Emma Bally

This past semester, BHSEC students said goodbye to Mr. Kolbe, the computer lab’s founder, as he left for his new job in film production, supporting artists in Midtown, Manhattan. “I’ve already worked one day there so I know what the work is like,” he explained. “I’m scripting in Linux but a good bit of my work isn’t doing actual coding. I’m going to a place where I need to work that way.”

Mr. Kolbe went on to explain that all BHSEC lab tech students use Linux because even though some students might use an Apple computer at home, they should be comfortable using a little bit of everything. As he left BHSEC, Mr. Kolbe felt that he was leaving a lot unfinished: “I think a lot of things have to be improved. Maybe I’ll get to two of them, or maybe I don’t. I think in lists. I need to keep myself [with a to-do list].” Mr. Kolbe had a few words for his replacement, saying, “They don’t need to keep anything I have developed. They should start from scratch, thinking wise, and then see if what I developed is helpful. A lot of it has been so custom that’s it’s not just going to [be helpful] in the way their mind works. And that’s fine, that’s the way that a job that goes all over the place works.” Mr. Kolbe also shared how although this was his job, he still learned while doing it, which was due in part to the collaboration with the lab tech students, saying, “So while [Lev, Y1, a lab tech, has] been writing his papers for his class, it’s about making computers better for the library– combining, almost like an internship.”

Since Mr. Kolbe’s arrival at BHSEC, he has been able to strengthen the relationship between students and teachers. He commented, “I think in the years I’ve been doing the program, the faculty have grown used to the idea that when [they ask for help], a student might arrive, which is a little surprising at first. I think [teachers] will continue to believe that’s possible and that students should continue to be volunteering and helping out. To me, it’s remarkably different.” Mr. Kolbe recalled one important decision during his time at BHSEC: “I remember thinking about this: can I give students admin access? I decided that there were places where they absolutely could [have access]. So teachers have grown to trust students.”

Looking at his time spent in a New York City high school, Mr. Kolbe felt nervous about leaving — but to him, this was all normal. “This is a risk. When you’re a Department of Education employee, you know that you have a union protecting you and a salary that will go incrementally up every year. It’s safe. And when you go out in private, you need your boss to like you. You need everybody to like you. And then you’re still hoping the job is still needed, even if they like you. But, the thing I’m not worried about is that I know I’ll be learning a lot and I’ll be able to say to anybody else I have these skills.” He went on to explain, “They’re hiring me to work in a mentoring role. So, I think my students will change age. Here, I don’t have many technical people to work with. I’ve missed it.” Outside of school, Mr. Kolbe has techinical friends who he feels comfortable “bouncing ideas” off of.

Mr. Kolbe’s biggest accomplishment has been the computer lab and his influence on other teachers. He remarked, “I get to leave you guys with a computer lab which didn’t exist before I was here and an expectation of computers in the library, and there are two faculty using Linux.”

Though he will miss the community here, he’s proud that these relationships tend not to stop when students graduate and leave. “Well, everybody knows that the students here are really fun to work with. That’s something you hear from the teachers all the time, so I’m not sure I want to be a teacher at another school… I have students who still tell me how they’re doing in their careers and it’s really exciting,” he said.

As Mr. Kolbe introduced the lab tech’s schedule to his new replacement, he explained, “If you want somewhere to concentrate, this is the place.” As he said farewell to BHSEC students and wished good luck to the new computer lab supervisors, we wish him luck with his new career.

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