Students Set Greater Expectations

Katherine Welzenbach is a high school chemistry and PLTW Biomedical Science teacher at Liberty High School in Liberty, Missouri. Katherine has a passion for teaching future leaders of tomorrow. She holds a master's degree from Rockhust University and is currently seeking a doctorate from Kansas State University in adult and continuing education.

Being a PLTW Biomedical Science teacher has changed my perceptions of student engagement. Within the first year of teaching Project Lead The Way's Medical Interventions (MI), I found my students had greater expectations for themselves than I had for them. Each student would pour themselves into the material and constantly go above and beyond the expectations set forth by the provided rubrics. They were energized by the course's relevant content, and I could sense their deep desire to learn for the sake of learning.

This passion for learning has gone beyond the classroom. In 2014, my students took MI beyond the classroom and wanted to share their research and knowledge with younger students. Together, my students and I developed #BioMedChat. #BioMedChat is a once-a-month Twitter chat meant for students, teachers, and professionals in the STEM fields. Most exciting: The chat takes place during the school day to allow students and classes to collaborate! If classes or students aren’t able to participate in the actual chat, they can still contribute to the conversation through scheduled chats submitted through our website.

The first #BioMedChat took place with a middle school social studies class. Students in Mrs. Smith’s class were studying the bubonic plague and asked my MI students questions about how bacterial diseases spread and why we don’t see much bubonic plague today. My students were able to facilitate the discussion using their knowledge from our unit on Bacterial Infection, as well as through the application of their research skills gained during their PLTW tenure.

I firmly believe that #BioMedChat wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for PLTW’s hands-on approach to instruction. PLTW’s curriculum made it possible for my students to explore their passion for medicine and fostered their creativity in creating Twitter chats. Each unit connected to the students’ personal experiences and as an educator, there is no greater way to enhance student engagement than providing authentic and relevant experiences.

Students who have since graduated high school will email me with updates on their post-secondary careers. Many of them credit their experience in the PLTW program as their reason for pursuing a career in medicine, research, and across all STEM professions. I am excited by the possibilities opened to them, and other students across the nation, as a result of the innovative curriculum from PLTW.

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