Coulwood Middle School Teacher Sees Transformation from PLTW Gateway

Don Robbins spent 15 years working at IBM in various engineering positions before transitioning to teaching at Coulwood Middle School in Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools in North Carolina. He started his second career teaching 7th grade math, and continued for 12 years. Then, three years ago, he started teaching Project Lead The Way (PLTW).

“I love being able to introduce my students to the hands-on projects, the writing, the thinking, and the collaboration,” he said. “I love that we have the flexibility to modify, add, and differentiate so that we can introduce new technologies and provide even more experiences for our kids.”

When Dr. Janet Moss joined Coulwood Middle School as principal, she believed that empowering her teachers to lead student learning would transform her school, and Robbins sees that happening in his own classroom.

“These classes give many of our diverse students the opportunity to have fun, explore, work with students in other grade levels, and many have come out of their shells, which is perhaps one of the more gratifying things we experience,” he said.

Robbins sees PLTW addressing behavior issues in his classroom as well. Students who have issues in most other classes love coming to his PLTW class and excel in the innovative environment.

Teaching PLTW has transformed Robbins’ teaching career, and he said that it really helps that his school district and principal believe in the power of PLTW and go out of their way to provide support. The experience has also shifted his relationship with the students in a very positive way.

“We have a lot of fun learning together, and it's amazing I still learn from them,” he said. “These types of classes excite the majority of the kids and they really look forward to coming to class each day. I love the hellos, the smiles, the hugs, the waves I get from students I don't even know yet, because of what they are hearing from my students.”

PLTW President and CEO Vince Bertram visited Coulwood Middle School and met PLTW students as they explored the Magic of Electrons unit.

“The skills you are learning in your classroom today,” he told Robbins’ students, “are preparing you for success in your careers. Continue to think critically and problem-solve, because those skills will differentiate you in the workforce.”

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