From PLTW Student to Master Teacher

Johnathan “JP” Predaina just finished his fourth year of teaching PLTW classes and is getting ready for another exciting summer filled with facilitating Core Training across the country as a Master Teacher. When he isn't teaching, he enjoys sailing, mountain biking, and motorcycling.

Little did I know 10 years after graduating high school that I would end up back at LakeView Technology Academy teaching engineering classes. As a student, I chose to go to LakeView because of their robotics program and pre-engineering classes. Leaving LakeView as a high school senior, I was prepared and knew I wanted to be an engineer. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville to study engineering.

After a few semesters, I finally got to ENG101, and I failed. Shocking right? A PLTW student failing a basic engineering class when I should've known everything. That was the problem. I’d already learned everything discussed in ENG101 through my PLTW Engineering courses at LakeView, so I was bored and only went to class to turn in assignments. I failed not because I didn't pass the tests but because of the mandatory participation/attendance line in the syllabus I forgot about.

This was the wake-up call I needed. I went back to LakeView to talk to my former principal and mentor, as well as future boss, Mr. Hittman. He suggested that maybe engineering wasn't my calling but instead teaching engineering was. I went back to school the next semester to pursue Technology Education, and I loved it!

After student teaching and graduation from UW-Platteville, I was offered a position at Lance Middle School, where I attended middle school. I was teaching PLTW Gateway classes, which I wish I would have had when I was in middle school. Every time a parent came into my room during a conference or open house, they shared a similar sentiment. I was so excited and loved teaching the PLTW Gateway classes because I was able to share my love for engineering with students to get them ready to go into high school thinking about engineering. I started an after-school "Fab Lab @Lance" club, which went on to win a second-place trophy at Gateway Technical College's Sumobot competition.

As I was about to leave the building after finishing my year-end paperwork for my third year of teaching, Mr. Hittman called me asking if I would interview for a position teaching PLTW and Solidworks they had open at LakeView Technology Academy. I interviewed and accepted the position. It was a great time back at my old high school teaching some of my middle school students who followed me.

I got involved after school and took over the Sumobot team there, winning first and third this year (only because our two teams met in the semi-finals!). We would've been first and second had they not met in the semi-finals because both bots were unstoppable! I also helped the super-mileage vehicle club with their CAD designs, and the students made some impressive vehicles electric and fuel-efficient vehicles averaging over 400 miles per gallon. 

Continuing on my PLTW journey: I just accepted a position in Madison, Wisconsin, teaching Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) and Principles of Engineering (POE) at West High School. The school is looking to expand their PLTW offerings to their students and hope to add EDD next year. I've enjoyed every moment of my journey from taking classes as a student to now teaching PLTW. The part I like the most as a teacher is even though I'm going to a new school, I already know walking in the classroom on day one what I'll be teaching in IED because of the PLTW curriculum, so that's one less thing for me to worry about.

One of the highlights of my experience with PLTW has been meeting other PLTW alumni and sharing my story with others at the PLTW Summit. I enjoy the PLTW Wisconsin State Conferences, but the PLTW Summit is a must-attend event if you've never experienced it before! Thanks for reading, and I'm looking forward to connecting with you on Twitter and continuing to share my PLTW stories with you and reading yours!

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of each guest author.