“Summer brain drain” isn’t just a concern for students. Teachers need to stay sharp in their off-time as well. This summer, Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a nonprofit organization that creates hands-on, project-based learning tools for classrooms across the United States, provided more than 11,000 K–12 teachers with professional development in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
Lisa Imbriaco, a fourth-grade teacher from the Abington Heights School District, was one of the educators who spent a few days of her summer learning how to add computer science to her curriculum.
“We have a computer science program in our middle school. We have a nice program in our high school. So now we wanted to start at the bottom and connect it all together at all three levels,” she says.
Since its beginnings in 1997, PLTW has always made a point to include professional development as a part of its STEM curriculum.
“The teacher training has always been part of our core program,” says PLTW President and CEO Dr. Vince Bertram. “I think professional development is important for all teachers, but specifically in STEM subjects where some teachers may not have the confidence.”
In our Summer 2016 issue of EdTech: Focus on K–12, we talked to Calcasieu Parish Public Schools Chief Technology Officer Sheryl Abshire about the importance of PD when it comes to integrating technology into K–12 curriculum.
“We’ve built a community that inspires confidence and willingness to take risks around technology,” Abshire told us. “The result is that we get the effective use of technology across the district.”
When a school or district goes to PLTW for STEM curriculum, the educators go through three phases of PD to prepare them for the coursework, Bertram says.
The first phase is what Bertram calls “readiness training,” before the teachers attend the PLTW training. Teachers go through a number of learning modules similar to what they’ll eventually have their students do. Next, the educators attend training with a PLTW “master teacher” who runs through the entire STEM course they’ll be teaching, down to predicting the kinds of questions students might ask. Finally, Bertram says PLTW provides ongoing training by connecting teachers to their network so they’ll have continued support for their new coursework.
“I want them to leave with a high level of confidence and understanding of what an effective, activity- and problem-based classroom looks like,” Bertram says.
Imbriaco, who attended PLTW Launch training for elementary teachers, says she thoroughly enjoyed working through the activities and modules with her fellow Abington Heights teachers. She’s looking forward to teaching the computer science program to her students once school begins.
“Overall, it’s going to be a lot of fun to teach. It’s very hands-on and in-depth. It seems like it’s going to be a blast for everyone involved,” she says.