Legends of CI: Mr. Darren Ehrhardt


Chris Smith H

How would you want people to see you?

“Too deep of a question for a tech teacher.”

While he downplays the importance of the question and claims himself to be Dark Lord of CI, the reality is that Mr. Darren Ehrhardt is, and has always been, a softhearted and beloved teacher, adored by students and staff alike. He is a man who is not only invested in educating students, but also in helping them succeed and go far in life, which is what a true teacher does. With this series, Legends of CI, the goal is to tell people stories; stories about people living inside their own community and town. Maybe by narrating these stories, we start appreciating the greatness and opportunities CI has to offer, and maybe, just maybe, an understanding for each other. What better way to start a series by talking about one of CI’s most down-to-earth teachers?

Mr. Ehrhardt is not only a teacher in CI, he is also an alumnus. He was part of the Class of ‘92, which was a time where CI Pride was at its highest. While he was a teen in CI, he participated in several extracurriculars, like wrestling and being a percussionist in the Band. Mr. Ehrhardt was very much involved in the community, and he reminisces that in those years, “school spirit was more abundant.”

After he graduated CI, he went on to become a math teacher. He quickly found a job coming out of college as an adjunct math professor at New York Institute of Technology. Though he did enjoy his job for a while, at one point he realized that he had lost interest in the field and wanted something different to keep his brain busy. When NYIT had layoffs, Mr. Ehrhardt took this opportunity to try something new; move into the field of technology. 

Why did you choose to teach in CI? What was it that attracted you to this town?

“I’m an alumni. My family has been here for a while and besides, what town deserves my talents more.”

In 2004, Mr. Ehrhardt returned to the Central Islip School District and started teaching technology classes to students of CI. Now, he is one of the leaders of the department, teaching classes like AP Computer Science A, Computer Aided Design, Media Production, and Principles in Engineering.

What class do you prefer to teach?

“I like them all to be honest. Each one has something that makes it interesting. Plus with so many different classes it keeps the mind going.”

 Ever since coming back to CI, Mr. Ehrhardt hasn’t looked back on his decision and keeps enjoying what he does. Even his kids, Matthew and Kara Ehrhardt, have graduated from CI. 

Last year, Amazon awarded you the title, “Future Engineer Teacher of the Year.” What does this award mean to you and did that award change you in any way?

No it didn’t change me, I’m still overly confident lol.”

CI has given Mr. Ehrhardt a plethora of opportunities and achievements. Last year, Mr. Ehrhardt won the “2022 Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year” award, which celebrates “all-star teachers who are working diligently to help students in underserved and underrepresented communities discover all the possibilities computer science and robotics bring for the future.” When asked about what this award meant to him, he said:

I think it meant more than just me getting it. It really is about our administration, especially Dr. Dungee and our Board of Education, supporting new courses that will benefit the students. Without them, they would never have been offered. It also talks about how our students work hard. The first couple of years it was not easy to be students in a new AP class, but they were amazing and encouraging. And now I’m able to have some of them come back to talk about opportunities in the computer science and engineering fields to the current students.

— Mr. Ehrhardt on being awarded 2022 Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year

Mr. Ehrhardt is one of the busiest teachers in CI. While teaching a variety of classes, he is also the advisor of Stage Crew. In CI, instead of buying sets for musicals and plays, students take the initiative to build them and move them, without trying to be seen. When the previous Stage Crew advisor in 2014 went off to teach at Reed, the spot was open for anyone to take it. Several kids at the time asked Mr. Ehrhardt to come in and become the advisor of the group, so he did. Since then, the beautiful sets and props used for a lot of the plays and musicals here in CI, like The Play That Goes Wrong and The Wiz, have been crafted by the hardworking Stage Crew kids guided by the genius of Mr. Ehrhardt. Mr. Ehrhardt comments on Stage Crew:

“I like Stage Crew kids because they put in a lot of effort, work very hard, and have to be on point. If an actor is out of place, no one in the audience will really know, but if the set piece is, it’s very noticeable… It’s also great that the kids do such an amazing job with everything.”

In addition to all of this, Mr. Ehrhardt is also one of the advisors of the Senior Class. His journey with this started again when several students asked him if he would be the advisor, and he couldn’t refuse such an offer. Mr. Ehrhardt has since worked with great co-advisors, like Ms. Morrow and Mrs. Villatoro. With the money the club makes, the seniors are able to have great proms, Senior BBQs, and class trips. As Mr. Ehrhardt says, “I think we try to make sure the last year of being CI students is enjoyable… We are also looking into a new tradition to start this year but need to raise some money, so hopefully, we will come through.”

Now, Mr. Ehrhardt can’t be all work and no downtime. When he has the chance, he likes to go out and golf. Mr. Ehrhardt is also a big reader who enjoys reading biographies and historical fiction. His favorite book series is A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George R. R. Martin. Lastly, he enjoys watching TV shows, movies, and documentaries. If you have the chance when you see him in the hallway, ask him what his favorite Marvel movie is or what he is currently reading! 

What are some of your goals?

To keep expanding the tech dept. We are lucky to be able to teach both old school tech (Woodworking and Auto Shop) and new tech (Computer Science and IT Essentials), but students deserve more.”

Mr. Ehrhardt still wants more for the community. However, this does not mean he has lost his motivation or drive to teach. That is due, in part, to his connections with students. After years of teaching, he still enjoys his job, mainly because of his ability to make a difference in someone’s life, whether that’s through helping someone pass a Regents to seeing a career option they had not considered. When asked what these relationships mean to him, he replied, “It’s the best part of the job. It’s always a great feeling to know you made a difference.”

How do you define success and do you feel like you achieved it?

“Success is being able to look in the mirror at the end of the day and be proud of what you were able to accomplish that day. I achieve it most days.”

Recently, Mr. Ehrhardt had one of his greatest days as a teacher when his student, Kelly Gaussaint, was surprised with the amazing news that she had earned an Amazon Future Engineering Scholarship worth $40,000 and a paid internship. He affirms, It’s great having our students recognized and rewarded for being the amazing kids they are.”

Mr. Ehrhardt has some advice for students in Central Islip who don’t know what to do:

“Explore different classes. I have had students take AP computer science just to see what it is like, decide they love it, and make a career of it (a well-paying career too). The technology dept can help you earn 9 college credits as an elective. Also, take Woodworking or Auto Shop. You’ll learn skills that will come in handy when you have a house or own a car.” 

So Mr. Darren Ehrhardt, on behalf of the community, I have written this line of code to show our appreciation.

var counter = 1;

while(counter >= 0){

  console.log(“Thank you for everything you do for CI and keep being the Legend and Genius you are”);