Bertram Continues the Summer Tour of Core Training, From Baltimore to Billings

(Aug. 11, 2015) To kick off a week of visits to #PLTWCT15, Vince traveled to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), which will train about 350 teachers this summer in the PLTW Computer Science and Software Engineering, Flight and Space, and Design and Modeling courses.

Karen Parisi, assistant affiliate director at UMBC, said PLTW Core Training engages and excites the teachers, and that energy follows them into their classrooms.

“We see teachers excited to go back to school and share these experiences with students, which I haven’t seen in a while,” she said.

When a teacher is excited about learning, students are, too.

“What makes a teacher feel like they have a good experience? They feel like they have a skill set and a comfort level to take that to students,” Bertram said. “It’s not just about the right and wrong answers, it’s about becoming comfortable with not knowing the answer.”

After visiting UMBC, Vince crossed half the country to Montana to see elementary school teachers completing Core Training at Billings Public Schools (BPS). Throughout the week, PLTW Master Teacher Melissa Soucy and PLTW Launch Trainer Jennifer Kruse trained 36 teachers and educators from BPS to teach PLTW Launch. This program for kindergarteners through fifth graders inspires students in the study of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“When students are turned off of math and science at a young age, it’s really hard to inspire them later on,” Bertram said. “That’s where we see Launch making a real impact.”

Teachers shared that they often hear colleagues says they “don’t do science” because when they were in school, it was boring or intimidating.

Part of getting – and keeping – students engaged in STEM “is building skills, but part of this is also building confidence,” Bertram said.

This is where the Launch program also excels.

Sandie Mammenga, principal of Bench Elementary School in the Billings Public Schools district, visited the training to see the action and to share her experience as a PLTW Launch pilot school. One of the major benefits, she said, was seeing the increase in parental involvement.

“The teacher development was outstanding,” she said. “It increased the teachers’ knowledge and enthusiasm, which then went on to the students, and then the parents come along.”

The implementation of PLTW Launch is the result of efforts from community leaders to create seamless district-wide pathways for K-12 students. The district also provides PLTW Gateway, PLTW Engineering, and PLTW Biomedical Science.

Vince headed back east to the first Core Training hosted by the University of Delaware, which became an affiliate in spring 2015. He was joined by Eunice Heath, PLTW board member and global director for sustainability, business engagement, and education at Dow Chemical Company.

High school teachers from across the state – and even a few from out of state – gathered at the UD College of Engineering to participate in training to teach Introduction to Engineering Design, a foundation course in the PLTW Engineering pathway.

“We are excited about this partnership with the University of Delaware,” Bertram said during his meeting with UD leadership. “We can have the best curriculum, but we need great teachers to inspire students.”

The University collaborated with the Delaware Department of Education to ensure PLTW Core Trainings support the newly established Career and Technology Education programs of study for Delaware high school students.

Vince topped off his week of travels at PLTW’s very first affiliate university – the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). RIT will train about 350 teachers by the end of summer. Vince visited during the last week of training and met teachers in the PLTW Computer Science and Software Engineering and Environmental Sustainability courses.

PLTW teacher Matthew Whitacker said he was looking forward to teaching Environmental Sustainability this fall because he sees it as inspiring his students to solve real-world problems.

“I think this is going to be the spark for them,” he said. “They want to make a difference, and this will be an eye-opening experience for them to see how they can change the world.”

PLTW Chairman of the Board Frank Zaffino joined the visit and thanked the teachers for their commitment to the future. Zaffino is the former vice president of world wide manufacturing at Eastman Kodak Co.

“We can build all the curriculum we want, but if we don’t have you to inspire students, it’s a failed system,” he said. “Thank you for your talent and for bringing it into our classrooms.”

Stay current on Vince’s travels – and the latest in education and workforce development news – by following him on Twitter at @VinceBertram.