A Portage Life in the Spotlight: John Kappes

A Portage Life in the Spotlight: John Kappes

For the past two years, John Kappes has been the robotics coach at Portage High School Robotics Coach but is celebrating his 24th year teaching at Portage High School. Currently, Kappes is the Project Lead the Way teacher.

Two years ago, Kappes proposed introducing robotics into the school curriculum, which was approved by the administration. Currently, Kappes is teaching Robotics, Transportation I and II and Manufacturing. Kappes is the department chair of the Engineering and Technology department.

Along with being the coach of robotics, Kappes is an assistant track and field coach, assistant middle school cross country coach, a Religious Education teacher at his church and is a dad to four children.

Although he has many responsibilities, Kappes dedicates a large amount of time to coaching robotics.

This year, the Portage Robotics team, the Porta-Botz won the CREATE US Open Robotics Nationals in Council Bluffs, Iowa in the Open Division.

Instantly, Kappes was filled with happiness.

“I simply smiled ear-to-ear,” said Kappes. “To see everything these kids have worked so long for come together in that special moment was incredible. Coach Kirk and I exchanged a long handshake and congratulated each other. After a few rapid texts, it was off to capture the moment in some pictures with a very deserving and excited group of kids.”

The Nationals winning team is made up of Senior Project Lead the Way students who not only work in class but spend near about 7 and a half additional hours after school and one “late night build”, which includes a pizza party, that is six or more hours.

His students are constantly with him working for robotics even while they have study hall classes and while they have lunch. Kappes is always working, whether it is being a teacher, coach, husband or a father, but his happy when he can combine these responsibilities.

“I bridged the gap between family and school, or Robotics, was including my two sons, Myles and Grant,” said Kappes. “They came to many open labs and build sessions, socialized with the team and even built a robot of their own that was entered in competition. Including them in what I do and seeing me interact with the team was nothing but positive. And, being around such good role models (the Robotics students) had an impact on their own academic goals. Ultimately, it meant quality time for me as a parent with my sons.”

With next year being Kappes 25th year at Portage, he is excited as ever to teach next year.

“[The best part of teaching and coaching] is hands down, the kids, I’m blessed to work with a remarkable group of young men and women,” said Kappes. “Competitive robotics is multidimensional and offers numerous opportunities for kids to contribute. Seeing students come together in their roles and solve the challenges required to make the team highly successful is very, very rewarding.”