Teachers from across the country head back to school in the summer and take on the role of student at Project Lead The Way (PLTW) Core Training. Some are veterans in the classroom but will experience the activity-, project-, problem-based (APB) instructional model that is the cornerstone of the PLTW learning experience for the first time, some are starting their teaching careers after spending years working within industries, and some are returning to be trained in additional PLTW courses. Despite their diverse backgrounds, teachers consistently agree that PLTW Core Training is an engaging professional development experience.
PLTW’s President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Vince Bertram continued his visits across the country with teachers attending Core Training at California State University, East Bay; University of Colorado, Colorado Springs; Northwestern State University of Louisiana; and Arkansas Tech University. The following teachers represent just a few of the many, diverse experiences that lead teachers to participate in Core Training.
California State University, East Bay
Richard Prizznick is a veteran of PLTW who has taught Principles of Biomedical Science and Human Body Systems at University Preparatory Academy in San Jose, California, since 2011. Prizznick completed Core Training for the third course in the Biomedical Science program – Medical Interventions – at Cal State, East Bay this summer and has learned a few things through the years.
“I would give prospective teachers encouragement to review and prepare for their course using some general background information, and gain some familiarity with the vocabulary,” he said. “The two-week training for the classes I've done have been fast-paced, and many times you can miss extremely important core ideas if you're unprepared.”
As the PLTW Coordinator for his school, Prizznick sees PLTW engage students in learning activities that even break down gender stereotypes.
“Our students learn to research, present their ideas, provide evidence, and support their knowledge using data from experiments they've conducted,” he said. “We are seeing a large female population we don't normally see in our science, physics, and math courses. I believe a vital component is our PLTW program.”
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Josh Mabe taught PLTW Gateway for two years, left the classroom to start his own business, and is now preparing to go back to teaching through Core Training.
Mabe took the lessons his PLTW students were learning in the classroom to heart and bridged the gap from classroom to industry by starting his own furniture business. Mabe started teaching PLTW Gateway in Monument, Colorado, at Creekside Middle School and moved to Lewis Palmer Middle School when the schools consolidated. He was entering his tenth year of teaching and inherited a trailer of scrap wood that he started experimenting with in his free time. By winter break, he was determined to build his family a dining table unlike any others. The build was a success, and his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in.
“With no plans or goals for owning my own furniture business, I decided to just go for it and by the end of the school year, I took the biggest risk of my professional career and started a custom furniture business called twenty1five,” he said. “With no marketing, no sales, not even a website, I just was determined to be resourceful just as I always told my kids to be in the PLTW class.”
Mabe sees many connections between the skills learned in PLTW and those necessary to start a business.
“PLTW proposes a problem that simply allow kids to be 100 percent creative and artistic in their approach,” he said. “In teaching this class, I was creating in my own life a hunger to practice this, and without knowing it, the stars in a small way were aligning.”
Mabe went from building small custom dining tables for single families to building out entire restaurants in Denver’s most popular downtown areas. He is returning to the classroom this fall and is looking forward to sharing his story with his students.
“In bringing my own experience to kids, it is more exciting than ever to be able to tell them to be creative, be artistic, be resourceful, and in doing so, through this PLTW experience, they could make their own dreams a reality as I have,” he said. “I didn't realize that as I taught this curriculum, I was actually the student. PLTW has helped me realize my own dreams, and now I can't wait to get back to teaching and teach with a conviction I've never had before. My belief in the PLTW curriculum is absolute. I've taught it, learned it, and will now teach it again. I’m looking forward to the horizon, as always.”
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Courtney Guidry teaches Introduction to Engineering Design at New Orleans Charter Science & Math High School, which is the only school in New Orleans that offers all three PLTW pathways.
Guidry completed Core Training for Principles of Engineering (POE) this summer because in the school’s second year of implementing the engineering pathway, many students are interested in continuing with the program.
“We anticipated only one section of POE but we will have two this school year, and it’s very exciting to see so many students interested in the engineering field,” she said. “PLTW is project-based learning at its best.”
Guidry sees PLTW as a way for students coming into high school to get up to speed in math and science.
“Many of our entering freshmen come in below grade level in terms of math,” she said. “PLTW not only gives them hands-on experiences to make the math and science come to life, but it also allows teachers to reinforce or remediate basic skills such as measurement, number operations, solving equations, while pushing forward into more complex mathematical problems."
Stay tuned for more stories from On the Road, where Vince travels to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; and Seattle University.
Stay current on Vince’s travels – and the latest in education and workforce development news – by following him on Twitter at @VinceBertram.