Mardi Montgomery of Pulaski County Schools Shares Her Journey to Expand PLTW

Project Lead The Way President and CEO Vince Bertram recently recognized Pulaski County Schools Director of Next Generation Programs Mardi Montgomery for receiving the 2015-2016 Project Lead The Way Kentucky Champion Award at the PLTW Kentucky State Conference. University of Kentucky Affiliate Director Doug Klein announced Montgomery as the award recipient, and family who had come to surprise her joined them on stage.

“She has vertically aligned PLTW, K-12, within her district,” said Klein when announcing the award’s recipient. “Not only does each school effectively understand and implement PLTW, but each sending school works in the service of the others so when students transition to a receiving school, they may activate their prior knowledge and laboratory experiences to go deeper in their learning and exploration.”

During her 10-year tenure in Pulaski County Schools, Montgomery has implemented and sustained PLTW Launch Programs in all eight of the district’s elementary schools, PLTW Gateway at both middle schools, and PLTW Engineering, as well as PLTW Biomedical Science, at the two high schools. The district now offers K-12 PLTW pathways, which she sees as transformational for students and teachers.

“Teachers are experiencing revivals in instruction, epiphanies of countless cross-content integration, innumerable real-life applications, and the ability for a diverse range of learning styles to either grasp, master, or accelerate depth of knowledge,” she said. “Walking into a PLTW classroom, unannounced, and witnessing students from special needs to gifted working together to problem-solve and create different successful outcomes - these are the experiences that embed life-long learning."

Although the outcome has been overwhelmingly positive, Montgomery is candid that there were challenges in expanding PLTW in the district, such as making all levels of leadership aware of the return on investment and bringing together key players for a culture change. She said the support of the superintendent and school board were of critical importance.

“At the state and federal level, we have sought every penny we can apply for in STEM-related funding,” she said. “However, this has been minimal. Our superintendent and board have made the commitment to enable our children and educators. They support in more ways than paying salaries. They are active not passive leaders in this community.”

Montgomery has clear advice for anyone working to expand access to PLTW for students: build relationships with local leadership, study your data, set goals, and you’re always welcome to visit a PLTW classroom in Pulaski County to see it in action.

“Research and understand your community's strengths and build on those strengths,” she said. “Believe in your people, your children, and your community. They will rise to the occasion.”

During his keynote address, Bertram recognized Pulaski County district leadership for their clear commitment to students and their ultimate belief that all students can achieve.

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers spoke to conference attendees in the morning and applauded Pulaski County Schools and PLTW for preparing students to thrive in our evolving world.

“STEM-based jobs are the future,” he said. “Our educators are tasked with preparing our students for this, and PLTW is one of the best tools we have available to us.”

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