Retired Teacher Having the Time of Her Life in PLTW Classroom

In August, amid a pandemic, William Colmer Middle School also faced an unexpected teacher vacancy, which left its PLTW Gateway program at risk. Dr. Jacqueline Woodbury, who retired – for a third time – in 2018, jumped into PLTW Core Training immediately to fill the void. She completed the training for the Design and Modeling and Automation and Robotics units and was back in the classroom supporting students.

“I started teaching when Nixon was President,” Dr. Woodbury said. “And I have taught every grade from PreK to graduate school.”

Dr. Woodbury taught middle school science for 20 years. After earning her Ph.D. in 1994, she went on to become Dean of Education at Union College in Kentucky. She retired for the first time from Union College in 2006.

“I hated retirement,” she said. “So I went back to teaching middle school science.”

She retired again in 2014, but retirement just didn’t suit her. She turned her focus towards adult education as the Executive Director of Northwest Tennessee Reconnect Community, an organization focused on helping adults get into college. She retired in 2018 for the final time… or so she thought.

Dr. Woodbury moved to Mississippi to be closer to her grandchildren and enjoy retirement. And then she received a call from Colmer’s Principal asking for a favor.

“Dr. Nicks called because the current PLTW teacher had decided to retire on the last day of in-service,” Dr. Woodbury said. “He actually said, ‘How would you like to start on the first day of school, in a subject that you are not certified in, in the middle of a pandemic?’”

She jumped at the opportunity. While she had not taught PLTW, her son had been a PLTW teacher – she was familiar with the project-based curriculum that encourages students to lead their own learning.

“I had lived vicariously through him, listening to his adventures and admiring the various mechanisms that he brought home,” she said.

She began teaching during the day and working to complete PLTW Core Training at night.

“I am having the time of my life,” she said. “It’s a great program, and I’m lucky to have a very patient administration who knows that I’m building this airplane while flying it. For the first time in my nearly half a century of teaching, I am really able to be the guide on the side and not the sage on the stage. This is the way it should be.”

William Colmer Middle School in Pascagoula, Mississippi, is supported by Chevron’s Mississippi business unit.