A PERFECT SURPRISE

When asked how his day is going, computer science teacher John Snyder’s favorite response is “darn near perfect.”

On Thursday, the Advanced Technologies Academy teacher may have had a perfect day when he became the first Nevada instructor to be inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame during a surprise assembly at the school.

Recognizing Snyder’s achievement, Gov. Jim Gibbons, who was not at the ceremony, declared April 19, 2007, “John Snyder Day.”

Snyder, 60, acknowledged that Thursday was no ordinary day.

“This school is so incredible that we have excellent days every day,” Snyder said. “But it certainly is a day of honor.”

Snyder is one of only five teachers nationwide to be inducted into the Hall of Fame’s 2007 class.

The nonprofit National Teachers Hall of Fame, in Emporia, Kan., began inducting teachers in 1992 and has honored 80 teachers.

Snyder’s patience, selflessness, enthusiasm and the personal attention he gives students were reasons he deserved the honor, according to a Hall of Fame official, the school’s principal and Snyder’s students.

In addition to the honor, Snyder received $1,000 worth of instructional materials, a $1,000 scholarship in his name for an A-Tech student and a gold lapel pin. He also will receive a gold ring once he tells officials his ring size.

Snyder was nominated by A-Tech’s principal, Karen Diamond, and a fellow teacher. Two selection committees review the nominations — the pool has been as large as 300, according to a Hall of Fame official — to determine who is worthy of entry into the Hall of Fame.

Snyder teaches Web design and multimedia courses.

He first worked in Southern Nevada as an English teacher, in the early 1980s at what was then Hyde Park Junior High School. At the time, Hyde Park didn’t have computers, Snyder said.

His interest in forming a computer club at the school led to a full-time position as a computer programming teacher. Snyder has been teaching computer science classes for nearly 25 years. He has taught the subject at Chaparral and Cimarron-Memorial high schools and at A-Tech since 1994.

Snyder compared his teaching style to the stealth approach of a ninja.

He prefers to put the focus on his students and not himself by avoiding long lectures. Students learn best with hands-on experience and less emphasis on textbooks, he said.

He doesn’t inundate his students with information, he said. Instead, he gives them just enough information so that they are not overwhelmed, he said.

Jeffrey Tuan, a senior at A-Tech, said Snyder is the best teacher he’s ever had.

“He makes students think for themselves, instead of telling us the answers,” Tuan said. “He makes us think for the answers.”

Snyder has been in a wheelchair since the late 1990s, after nerves in his legs were severed during surgery to remove a tumor on his spine. Snyder said he underwent the surgery knowing of the risk.

But Snyder, who can stand but cannot walk, said he doesn’t consider his condition a handicap, just a “major inconvenience.”

Diamond, who has been principal of A-Tech for the past year and a half, said that when she got the job, Snyder was one of the first people in her office.

Diamond, who is a graduate of the University of Missouri, had heard great things about Snyder’s dedication to his job. But she joked that she was somewhat skeptical because Snyder was a graduate of Kansas University. The schools are bitter rivals.

Diamond said she quickly realized that Kansas Jayhawks put students first.

“His sole purpose is to work with kids, make them successful and see what he can do to service the needs of all of us,” Diamond said.

A-Tech is a nontraditional high school that gives students the opportunity to focus on careers in technical fields. It is among the 19 highest-performing schools in the district under federal No Child Left Behind Act standards.

At a time when many teachers are leaving the profession because of dissatisfaction, Snyder, a 36-year teaching veteran, said he can’t get enough.

“I’m not going to retire until they drag me kicking and screaming from this building,” he said.

A-Tech students have a zest for learning that is inspiring, Snyder said.

“I don’t consider myself dedicated,” he said. “I consider myself addicted.”

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