PLTW Alumnus Spotlight: Madylin Cooper

For 25 years, PLTW has offered transformative classroom and learning experiences for PreK-12 students. Now, many of those students are professionals in STEM fields. We recently reached out to several PLTW alumni to learn more about their educational and career journeys and find out what advice they have for current PLTW students. If you are a PLTW alumnus interested in sharing your story, we’d love to hear from you here.    

Madylin Cooper lives in Clemson, South Carolina and is a student at Clemson University majoring in chemistry, and participating in “MEDLIFE,” a career class that brings medicine to countries across the world. In middle school, she participated in PLTW Gateway classes and continued her STEM curriculum pathway in high school by participating in PLTW Biomedical Science.

In what grades did you participate in PLTW? What were some of your most memorable experiences from PLTW?

I participated in PLTW in middle school and the latter part of high school.

By far, one of my most memorable experiences in high school was in a PLTW classroom. This was the turning point where everything “clicked into place” regarding what I wanted to pursue in life. The lab was “Forensic Examination of Bones.” I received four bones and had to determine the height, race, gender, and age from the bones. Using key factors like jaw degrees, femur curves, pubic angles, or eye sockets, I can determine those four previous demographics. I can look at a femur and tell you if the person was White, Asian, or Black. I find it captivating how people can determine these elements by only certain bones. There was one point where I was convinced my skeleton was transgender! After trying to decipher the race of my skeleton, I finally found the only way to confirm my hypothesis. Sadly, this was over a long weekend. The first thing I did when I got into class that following Monday was rush straight to my bones. I was never excited to see a femur more. I loved that lab! This led to one of my most proud achievements: my white lab coat. The feeling of putting the coat on began my passion for the medical field. With that being said, it was my first, hopefully not my last, white lab coat! 

What did your journey look like to get to where you are today? 

I am where I am today for four reasons: PLTW, my PLTW teacher Mr. Nathan Fleming, my family, and my drive. Mr. Fleming was recently selected to earn one of the 2022-23 Outstanding PLTW Teacher awards. I can say firsthand that he is beyond deserving of the title. My drive placed me into acceptance at Clemson University, but the background skills, mindsets, and hands-on experience from PLTW are what pushed me to succeed.

What classes are you currently taking? How has PLTW prepared you to thrive in college?

I am currently enrolled in the prerequisites needed for my next four years here at Clemson University, such as chemistry, biology, psychology, etc. I sure do miss the hands-on models, diagrams, and figures provided in PLTW classrooms. Most college classes are lecture-based, so appreciate them while you still can. PLTW has encouraged me to make discoveries and develop innovations that will further excel me in the medical field.

Do you have any advice for current PLTW students?

My advice is from my PLTW teacher Nathan Fleming, who states, “Fail forward.” At first, I didn’t want to fail at all. However, after the first week, I realized it was inevitable. I failed way more times than I ever succeeded in that class, which was the key to succeeding! Lastly, the quote that keeps me going every day is, “Pressure is a privilege,” by Billie Jean King. If you are not feeling the pressure, you are not doing your best.

 What did you learn in PLTW that still helps you today? 

I will be the first to warn you that this class will spark a period of personal growth, but you have to be ready to take on the challenge. Independence will be one of the hardest things you will learn in a PLTW class, but one of the best in life. 

Do you have any advice for current PLTW students? 

In my senior year, I began a mission to work with the Bridges Program, a community-based organization at West Plains High School to discreetly give help to students in need. The program provides clothes, food, school supplies, hygiene items, etc. The problem occurred when my peers were embarrassed to be seen with canned goods in their hands. I knew this needed to change. With the help of my high school and the Bridges coordinator, I hand-delivered the supplies to students and the program worked efficiently and had more participants than ever. I encourage everyone to recognize problems in their communities and put the skills gained from a PLTW classroom to good use in the real world to better the environment, community, and most importantly, yourself.

PLTW provides PreK-12 schools, teachers, and students with hands-on, interdisciplinary STEM-based curriculum that uniquely prepares students for life and their future careers.

PLTW rejuvenates teachers, providing world-class experiences that keep them on the forefront of how to prepare students for the demands of tomorrow. PLTW:

  • · Has provided professional development opportunities to more than 80,000 teachers giving them the support and resources needed to inspire students
  • · Offers best-in-class teacher training: PLTW Core Training with Master Teachers
  • · Continuously updates teacher resources that are available on demand
  • · Facilitates teacher networking opportunities
  • · Develops curriculum by a team of writers, many of whom are former teachers

Learn more about PLTW on pltw.org