Rob Naylor began teaching PLTW Human Body Systems (HBS) three years ago at the Conrad Schools of Science in Delaware after what he calls “the largest rut of [his] teaching career,” and hasn’t looked back since. After teaching 7th grade science for 11 years, he had lost his passion and energy for the profession, so when the opportunity arose for someone to teach PLTW, he immediately put his name in for consideration.
“Taking the reins of this pathway rejuvenated my teaching career,” Naylor said. “I once again felt that I made a difference, but more importantly, I left school every day having learned something new.”
After attending Core Training for HBS and Medical Interventions (MI) at Stevenson University, Naylor was ready to rock in his PLTW classroom with the goal of learning alongside his students.
“The largest challenge I had to overcome was feeling as though my students would know more than I did in my early months with the program,” he said. “I had just come from years of middle school science, and it had been 13 years since I took a university-level course in biology.”
Naylor was committed to the idea that he could grow along with his students and along the way, learn some remarkable things. One day in particular, Rob remembers sitting with his 26 MI students and watching the computer simulation offered in the Cancer Module over and over again.
“We made strides that week, and I realized that we were growing in our understanding,” he said.
Now, a few years after that first round with the courses, Naylor says he is comfortable with leading his students in the learning. His greatest success has been to see his students find the relevancy in their PLTW coursework with their lives.
“Some come to class to better understand what's going on with their body or the health of someone in their family,” he said. “Many of my athletes and students concerned about their weight really got into "Metabolism: A Balancing Act" of HBS. They found it extremely beneficial to break down the numbers to see exactly where their trends and habits would leave them after a day, week, or month.”
For new PLTW teachers, Naylor advises building a network with others.
“I can't thank the friends that I made at training enough,” he said. “During those two weeks, I really leaned on them to re-familiarize myself with principles of biology and lab techniques.”
He stayed in touch with those friends and the group regularly touches base to share success stories and talk best practices. This network of support was especially helpful when learning how to teach in a PLTW classroom.
“Don't panic about your comfort level of the curriculum,” he said. “There is a learning curve and you will certainly gain confidence quickly. Rely on the curriculum and buy into the resources and pacing guides provided.”
For Naylor, the real successes in his classroom happen after the students complete the courses.
“I hope that all my students can take ownership of their learning,” he said. “I would love to see my students continue in pursuing a degree in bio or medicine, but I care more about them being able to think for themselves. I think this program allows every student to practice these skills that should help them find success in any major at the college level.”
Naylor brought a group of students to the Delaware state conference recently to present their experiences with their class work. PLTW President and CEO Vince Bertram opened the conference sharing how the skills students develop in PLTW courses are lifelong skills that will empower them to choose their own path.
“I think this program allows every student to practice these skills,” Naylor said. “That will help them find success.”
Stay current on Vince’s travels – and the latest in education and workforce development news – by following him on Twitter at @VinceBertram.