Loving PLTW as a Parent and as an Educator

Julia Xistris is a PLTW Launch Lead Teacher and K-5 technology teacher at Belleville Intermediate and Elementary School in Belleville, Wisconsin. Julia is a mother of five and a yoga enthusiast.

I live in rural Wisconsin in a town of just over 2,000 people, yet through PLTW our small district has given my children the tools they need to confidently become global learners. My four teenage children have been attending a PLTW school since grade 6. As a parent, I have seen my children thrive and succeed from taking the PLTW classes, even receiving college credits as high schoolers! My eldest son went on to study engineering in Berlin, Germany, and was able to fit into the highly competitive and advanced engineering program at a German university, which I credit to the solid foundation he received through PLTW classes.

I am the K-5 technology teacher in a neighboring rural school district. Last year, in January, the curriculum director approached me and asked me if I would be interested in becoming the PLTW Launch Lead Teacher for our district. I immediately agreed, and I was extremely thrilled to be a part of the PLTW Launch initiative, having seen first-hand how the amazing PLTW curriculum has put my own children on center stage through inquiry-based learning, hands-on problem-solving activities, and transfer of knowledge, giving them the tools they need to apply their knowledge to real-world problems.

Over the summer, I attended the PLTW Launch Lead Teacher training. My Master Teacher, Eryca Card, was, and continues to be, extremely supportive and knowledgeable. During the entire PLTW experience – starting with the training, then excitedly unpacking the boxes of curriculum materials, at times feeling overwhelmed but getting assistance from the helpful support staff at PLTW, and even attending the state conference – I have felt respected and appreciated as an educator. Now I feel a common bond with other PLTW educators who passionately believe in STEM education and moving our students forward with 21st-century learning. But the real affirmation came when I announced to my fifth graders, “Today we will be continuing with PLTW,” and one of my students put both hands in the air and with a big smile enthusiastically exclaimed, “Yeah, Project Lead The Way!” I knew that I was right where I needed to be as a 21st-century educator.

To get a peek inside our classroom, check out the image above, which shows the Infection: Detection module. This module teaches students to understand how easily communicable diseases spread. As the fifth graders were learning about Angelina, Mylo, and Suzi’s school, our school suffered an outbreak of influenza at the same time! The learning had real and live applications that the students could apply immediately to the situation at our school!

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.