Summer training for teachers is commonplace, but the recent Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Summer Core Training at the Davidson College of Engineering was in a class by itself. This two-week, rigorous residential training program in engineering principles and curriculum – comparable to one year of academic study – attracted 58 middle and high school instructors from 43 schools in California and 7 out-of-state schools.
This fall, as a result of this training approximately 3,000 middle and high school students will directly benefit from the hard work and dedication of these teachers. Students will be encouraged to consider engineering careers and will – for the first time – participate in project-based learning and be better prepared to pursue engineering in college.
“We are proud to be part of a statewide CSU partnership providing
engineering training to dedicated teachers,” says Emily Allen, associate dean. “Our PLTW training, part of the college’s Engineering Pathways to Success Initiative, was a very intense two-week immersion in engineering principles and design. Now these enthusiastic and committed teachers will be able to excite the next generation of engineering students in their own classrooms.
“Partnering with schools and teachers is a smart way for us to invest in our future engineering student body,” stresses Allen.
The PLTW training offered attendees four separate engineering courses. Middle school teachers participated in the Gateway to Technology curriculum training; high school teachers studied either Introduction to Engineering Design (IED), Principals of Engineering (POE) or Digital Electronics (DE). The courses were taught by a total of seven master teachers who came to SJSU from all over the country.
One of these master teachers, Jerry Iserloth, who teaches physics, physical science and principles of engineering at a high school in Delavan, Wis., comments, “With SJSU coordinating the PLTW program in Northern California, all students, including those who are under-represented and at risk, have an opportunity to experience the joy and excitement of the engineering process – learning new things, building new things, designing new things and inventing new things. This is what engineering is all about.”
CoE professors Ken Youssefi, general engineering, and Jim Freeman, electrical engineering, served as affiliate professors. Youssefi provided guidance on software and hardware for the IED courses, and he determined the needs of the master teachers and how best to accommodate them. “Networking with the master teachers is extremely important in preparing them for the summer training, and also providing them with information on the latest technology,” he says.
Freeman, who served as a technical advisor for the DE course, is very enthusiastic about PLTW. “The program has the best track record of having students enter engineering programs in college. The DE course is especially important in introducing high school students to electrical engineering.
“I’m looking forward to seeing some of these students – who were impacted by the teachers we trained this summer – in my classes within the next few years,” says Freeman.
High marks from teachers
Tina Edwards, a math teacher at Concord High School who will teach algebra and geometry this fall along with the new POE class, is enthusiastic about the training experience. “SJSU’s PLTW summer training was truly a wonderful experience – the program was extremely well organized and all our needs were carefully attended to,” she says.
“After completing the training, I’m far more confident in my abilities to successfully teach POE this fall,” continues Edwards. “Not only was the overview of the curriculum beneficial, our core training teachers did an excellent job of creating a community among class participants. Now I’ll have the support of fellow core trainees, trainers and other experienced teachers in and around the Bay Area.
“I also have a renewed appreciation for the PLTW organization overall and the dedication and quality of people involved,” says Edwards.
Bob Capriles, math instructor at Fremont High School, who will teach introduction to engineering for the first time this fall, says, “It was immensely helpful to have well-trained course leaders who actually teach the IED course I’ll be teaching. Since they know both course content and intent, they were able to provide additional insight into key areas of emphasis.
“I’ve already used my PLTW training while teaching a geometry class this summer,” adds Capriles. “I’m now able to make a deeper connection for my students with solid geometry, orthographic views, isometric drawings and perspectives. The skills and knowledge I learned in the PLTW training will contribute to both my IED course and my math classes. I’m grateful for PLTW and all the people at SJSU who made this course possible.”
Katherine Casey, coordinator for Engineering Pathways to Success, who played a key role in organizing the training, observes, “PLTW curriculum is guided by workforce needs and is periodically updated with industry input. This exceptional national program provides the rigor and relevance that our youth need to be better prepared for future careers.”