Cheri and Randy Blackwood are an "Inseparable Unit." At least that's how they're known to many of their students. The Blackwoods are teachers at Edmond Santa Fe High School. Cheri, 54, teaches Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry and physics; Randy, 52, teaches pre-AP algebra and AP statistics.
"They're really passionate about making sure that their students really understand something. They're not just teaching to an AP test," said Vivian Chen, 17, a senior at Santa Fe who nominated the Blackwoods to be one of The Oklahoman's Inspiring Couples.
But the Blackwoods don't just teach their students the fundamentals of math and science. They teach them about problem- solving and maintaining a healthy relationship.
"They've shown that even through 30 years, it's still very possible to be committed and still have fun and not just keep their friendship between themselves," Chen said. "They have such respect for each other; they can turn that respect to other people, too."
The Blackwoods have been married for 31 years and have worked together as teachers at Santa Fe for the past eight years. Since their two daughters have graduated from college, both with degrees in engineering, the Blackwoods say they have more time and energy than ever to spend on developing their students.
"We're not tied between having to share our time with our kids at home and share our time with the kids at school. They've kind of developed into our family the last several years," Randy Blackwood said of the students.
In spring, the Blackwoods often spend up to 60 hours per week working with their students. That's when First Robotics competitions occupy much of their time.
The couple lead the school's robotics team. In January, the competition begins, and the team learns what that season's challenge will be. The next six-and-a-half weeks are spent building a robot.
"One of the things that we noticed, even nationwide, is the lack of kids who want to go into engineering — who want to go into the math and science field," Cheri Blackwood said. "First Robotics is about making available to kids opportunities to develop skills to make them successful in these engineering fields, to make them the next inventors."
It's all about problem- solving, the couple said.
"There's something about practicing learning to think creatively and trying to look at a weird abstract problem and to come up with a solution, knowing there's more than one way to attack it," Randy Blackwood said.More Inspiring Couples
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Cheri and Randy Blackwood are featured in the "Oklahoma's Most Inspiring Couples" 2010 calendar, sponsored by the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative. Couples featured in the calendar are being profiled in The Oklahoman's Life section each month. For more information about the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative's inspiring couples, go to www.foreverforreal.com.