Job Title: Instructional Designer, Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta; Co-Founder, Nerd Nite Edmonton
Why He’s Top 40: He’s helping teachers become better instructors, while encouraging nerds everywhere to be themselves through Nerd Nite.
Guilty Pleasure: “Karaoke. I do ‘Pinball Wizard,’ the Elton John version.”
Education is a passion of Wade Kelly’s. As an instructional designer, he helps people become better at teaching by assisting with things such as building a syllabus or creating a multiple-choice exam.
Kelly was once a teacher himself, in the same high school he once attended in the city of Fort St. John, British Columbia. He moved back there after completing his undergrad at the University of Alberta. When he started teaching there, he realized that not much had changed since he was a student. “I wasn’t really picked on all that much, but it was a fairly homophobic environment,” says Kelly, who came out as gay while in university.
As a teacher, he noticed that homophobic language was being used at the high school and that other teachers weren’t saying anything. “That was one of the reasons that I came back to Edmonton – I couldn’t teach in that environment, and I didn’t want to stay there.”
He did his master’s degree with the goal of creating policy that would inform practice, and bring about change in the way students react to sexual-minority issues. Next up? He’ll soon start his Ph.D.
In the meantime, he encourages a culture of learning in Edmonton through Nerd Nite, an event he co-founded in 2012 with Top 40 Under 40 alumnus Adam Rozenhart. Each evening features three speakers on topics ranging from culture to science to art. “We’ve had everything from a Canada research chair to a guy who was a retired police officer in Edmonton who collects watches,” says Kelly, who refers to Nerd Nite as “Discovery Channel with beer.”
Two years later, 12 out of the past 15 Nerd Nites have sold out – Nerd Nites originally started in New York, but Edmonton’s events were followed by ones in Vancouver, Canmore and Calgary.
So why is Nerd Nite so popular? “We’ve been conditioned to believe that our education stops at Grade 12 or our undergrad or masters, but the human brain doesn’t work like that,” says Kelly.