Students Learn In-Demand Skills and Life Lessons

John Kocsis teaches PLTW Gateway at Trenton Catholic Academy in Hamilton, New Jersey. He is thrilled to be able to teach the next generation of computer engineers. When not programming or coding, Kocsis is an avid Philadelphia sports fan and enjoys watching the Eagles, Phillies, and Flyers.

“Yes!”

That was the enthusiastic response from a young lady in one of the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) middle school computer science classes when she heard she was going to be developing a mobile app by the end of the year. It isn’t often middle school students verbally share their excitement about a project in school, but in our PLTW classes at Trenton Catholic Academy (TCA), our students are engaged, challenged daily, and becoming critical-thinking, problem-solving engineers.

I teach PLTW Gateway to the 6th through 8th grade classes and have seen tremendous growth in students. In addition to learning concepts of computer science, students are developing other skills, as well. They are learning collaboration and logic, and that it’s OK to make mistakes. They are seeing how what they learn in the classroom is related to life; it’s relevant to them.

There is such enthusiasm in my students. I thought they would like PLTW, but I didn’t know they would embrace it as they did. They’re being challenged, and they are rising to the challenge.

TCA parents are also exhibiting enthusiasm at the program, sharing their amazement of what their child has accomplished in class. The standard answer to the question, “What did you do in school today?” is no longer answered with nothing, but rather a detailed and lively discussion begins about students’ work on a project or app.

PLTW at TCA is also drawing interest from prospective students and families inquiring about the school. We have a destination with this curriculum. It’s flexible and tailored to the students’ abilities and schedules. The students understand that while technology continues to change and evolve, there are skills and concepts that they need to know. They need to be able to take risks, to try and fail, and to understand that it’s OK to make mistakes.

A fellow colleague, Mike Knowles, and I attended PLTW Core Training at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. We agree that it is the professional development and teacher preparation that sets PLTW apart from other STEM programs and empowers educators.

This program is not overwhelming to students or teachers. The learning is incremental, and PLTW provides the necessary training for teachers and scaffolding for students so that all involved feel comfortable taking risks and are not afraid to engage in the activities and curriculum. I would encourage all teachers to participate in PLTW Professional Development.

Incorporating this curriculum was one of the best and easiest decisions we ever made.

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.