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This is Colleen Buck, also known as Mrs. Book to the kindergarteners she teaches as the librarian at Oak Ridge Elementary School in the Souderton Area School District. Not only is she this week’s #TeacherTuesday, but her sunny personality and passion for “helping every child feel appreciated, understood and truly valued as an individual” has earned her a TV spot on FOX 29Good Day Philadelphia today.
Says Colleen, “Each morning I wake up excited to empower our learners to investigate, innovate, and celebrate. Being a public school educator affords me the opportunity to enrich the lives of children from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds; who in turn enrich my life tenfold!”
She adds, “I just absolutely positively love what I do!” That’s clear because Colleen knows the name of every one of the more than 500 students in the school, and you can tell they love her too.
Tell us who else is a shining spotlight in your school and we’ll feature them in an upcoming #TeacherTuesday.
Veteran educator Dave Namey has taught electrical courses at the Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technical Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, for more than 40 years.
He started during the career and technical education (CTE) heyday of the late 1970s and early 80s and witnessed its slump in the 1990s. But several factors have brought renewed attention to CTE in the past few years, including industry demand for skilled workers and the soaring costs of attaining a four-year degree.
More than 65,000 high school students are enrolled in CTE programs in Pennsylvania. The number of students earning industry-recognized credentials has increased by 32 percent in the past three years.
But that momentum has not been reflected in funding—both state and federal funding for career and technical education programs have been frozen since 2009.
“If it wasn’t for generous donations from area businesses and Local 163 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to get us through the lean years, we’d be in quite a pickle,” said Namey.
Now, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is doubling down on his efforts to bolster career and technical education and align those programs with workforce needs. This month, he unveiled his plan to invest $60 million in CTE through the departments of Education and Labor and Industry as part of his 2018-19 budget proposal.
More than 38 districts and technology centers have already received grants totaling $1.2 million, including the center where Namey teaches.
One of the most pressing needs for CTE programs is to purchase up-to-date equipment and tools to prepare students to work in a given industry.
In the electrical field, for example, there is demand for skills in photovoltaic technology, Namey explained. “There’s a growing emphasis on alternative energy, but before now, there was no way we could provide the solar panels, panel boxes, and inverters students need to learn the skills they would need,” he said.
Another common need for career and technical education programs are modern power tools, which are battery operated and extremely efficient, Namey said.
In addition to teaching, Namey has served since the late 1980s with the Pennsylvania State Education Association’s Department of Career and Technical Studies. He has been the elected president since 2000.
In that role, he meets with other CTE educators from around the state. They have successfully lobbied state legislators to establish an appropriate timeframe for CTE teachers to attain certifications, and to allow students to use their high scores on the Pennsylvania CTE skills assessment as a graduation alternative to high stakes standardized testing.
Part of that group’s work is to help parents and students better understand what CTE programs offer, and who they are for.
“When our students graduate, we want them to have three distinct career paths. They can start working right away. They can go for some post-secondary education to increase their knowledge and earning potential. Or they could pursue a union apprenticeship,” Namey said.
No matter what they decide, Namey says students leave his school’s three-year program with “a set of problem-solving skills and a work ethic that will benefit them throughout their lives.”
One recent graduate from his electrical program—a “nontraditional” female student who also happened to be head cheerleader—did stay in the industry. She works at a local power plant and “is doing quite well for herself,” Namey reports.
“It’s been great seeing more interest and understanding of the value of career and technical education over the past five years,” Namey said.
“It’s important that people understand the value of what we do here and the caliber of students we put into the workforce.”
Credit: Education Votes
National television is the latest stop for the technology program at Neil A. Armstrong Middle School in Bristol Township.
Verizon officials have announced that the school — particularly instructional coach Dawn Martesi and eighth-grade student Chelsie McClease — will be featured in the company’s new national television advertisement to be aired during the NCAA men’s basketball championship game Monday night on TBS.
The ad will “bring mass attention to the issue of educational inequality and the digital divide in America,” a Verizon news release said.
The spot originally was supposed to air on Oscar Night March 4 but was pulled back by Verizon.
Martesi said at the time she couldn’t be more excited about the commercial and showcasing the technical programs at Armstrong.
“It was amazing to see our school taken over by the film crew — crazy and surreal,” she said.
Chelsie at the time described it as a “dream thing.”
“I never thought I would be on TV in the eighth-grade,” she said.
Armstrong and Bristol Township’s other middle school, Franklin D. Roosevelt, are two of only four schools in Pennsylvania — the other two are in Pittsburgh — among 100 in the country to be named Verizon Innovative Learning Schools. These are economically disadvantaged schools with not as much access to technology as wealthier ones, Verizon officials said.
For the last four years, the Verizon Foundation and a group called Digital Promise has provided $1.2 million to $1.5 million worth of equipment and services at each Bristol Township school.
Among the many things the money pays for is mobile devices for each student. Among the programs that have grown out of the partnership are student teams called Tiger Techs that help both fellow students and teachers with technical issues.
Verizon officials also announced they are committing another $200 million toward STEM education at schools around the country and increasing the number of Innovative Learning Schools to 200.
Credit: The Intelligencer
This week’s #TeacherTuesday, Dr. Jenny Neff, uses humor and purposeful stories to build a long-lasting rapport with her band students at Bala Cynwyd Middle School in Lower Merion School District. Even when she was young, she was always involved with music and enjoyed working with kids and teaching others. And a stint as the marching band drum major in high school sealed the deal.
Jenny enjoys helping kids grow through the lens of music, helping to be a guide through life’s challenges, and celebrating their successes. “While most people only see the ‘product’ we perform, the ‘process’ and growth are very rewarding,” she says.
She works to provide her students with “a musically engaging experience as individuals and ensemble members.” She also focuses on providing “a good listening ear for students who are working through life’s daily issues or thoughts.”
Let us know what other teachers put the melody in students’ lives and we’ll feature them in an upcoming #TeacherTuesday.
This week’s #TeacherTuesday is the brains and creative spark behind Wissahickon Middle School’s extraordinary musicals, and also a chorus and general music teacher who’s been teaching at the school for 25 years.
Sue Brown’s work demonstrates that music is integral to a well-rounded education. “I have watched students grow from shy, quiet sixth graders into confident, outgoing eighth graders singing solos, and it just amazes me,” she says. “Directing chorus and the musicals allows me to see students shine in a way that a lot of their teachers and classmates don’t always have a chance to see” and she is “in awe of their talents and abilities at this age.”
This dynamic teacher says, “I hope that my students find chorus and drama to be a place where they can be themselves and express their excitement for music, whether it be as a performer, or maybe helping with lights and scenery.”
Who else generates that creative spark in their students? Let us know and we’ll feature them in an upcoming #TeacherTuesday.
More than 800 girls from public and private schools throughout Bucks County attend the annual STEM Conference at Delaware Valley University.
Don’t bring that “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” kind of stuff around Jessica Perfetto.
She isn’t buying any of it.
Perfetto, a Pennsbury High School technology education teacher and the district’s curriculum coordinator for applied engineering/technology education, thinks the place for more and more females is in the laboratory, or at architectural and engineering firms or similar destinations devoted to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
With that goal in mind, Perfetto this school year started a course called Introduction to Women in Technology & Design that — though also open to boys — has the express purpose of encouraging and making girls feel more comfortable in pursuing STEM.
And as March — Women’s History Month — winds down, the Pennsbury educator is one of many around the area taking steps that could help girls someday make a little history of their own in the STEM areas.
The Quakertown Community School District has started a Career Café speaker series at Strayer Middle School where at least one session each month will be led by a female professional in a STEM field.
There is a girls STEM club at Poquessing Middle School in the Neshaminy School District, and an annual #girlSTEM conference at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown Township and New Britain Borough that draws more than 800 girls grades 6-10 from public and private schools throughout Bucks County.
Officials from schools that responded to inquiries from this news organization also said they are always looking for ways to expand STEM offerings for both boys and girls at all grade levels, and that benefits both genders.
At Pennsbury, Perfetto said she wanted to do something special for girls.
“A lot of girls might be interested in taking a technology course but might be afraid of being the only girl,” she said. “I’ve had classes of, like, 18 boys and two girls, and often the girls would go to guidance after the first day and try to drop. As a female in the profession, I know it’s a little intimidating being the only girl in a class, so you have to promote that development of STEM interest in girls.”
Though it’s getting better, persisting sexual stereotypes in society can still discourage girls from pursuing STEM, Perfetto said.
“I like doing woodworking projects at home, and the other day I was at a store getting wood and was carrying it across the parking lot to my car,” she continued. “Some guy yells across the lot at me, ‘Hey, that’s a lot of wood for a girl.’”
“I think, just human beings are biased. We always go back to what is traditional. I grew up in an Italian household and was always being asked why am I pursuing this non-traditional path. Why wasn’t I married and having kids? I fought that and want to encourage girls to pursue STEM, if they are interested, regardless of attitudes.”
Since the new class started, enrollment in applied engineering/technology education at Pennsbury High School has gone from 9 percent girls to 24 percent, Perfetto said.
During a recent class, the 19 girls in Perfetto’s class — there are no boys — were coding little robots to navigate through a maze, making molds for a 3-D printer to create headphone holders and doing other projects.
“This class just for women gives us more of a chance to excel in the things we want to,” said Leah Ford, a freshman in Perfetto’s class.
“In some of the other classes, you’re kind of held back and put in a situation where it’s like, ‘Hey, you can’t do that because you’re a girl.’”
Fellow freshman and class member Rozlyn Geers said she is leaning toward a career in either interior design or physical therapy — both of which incorporate STEM — and is determined not to let sexism stand in her way.
“I don’t go with the stereotypes and pretty much just do what I please,” Rozlyn said. “I won’t miss out on an opportunity just because there might be only guys in a class or program, but this class makes it easier for girls to get involved in things. Knowing you’re surrounded by other girls make it a little more comfortable.”
If Rozlyn holds true to her career aspiration, she will enter a STEM workforce where women are still trying to catch up with men.
Improvements in some areas
According to a 2017 update from the Economics & Statistics Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, women filled 47 percent of all U.S. jobs in 2015 but held only 24 percent of STEM jobs.
Women with STEM jobs earned 35 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs, the update added. Though women in STEM jobs earned 30 percent less than men in STEM, women with STEM jobs earned 40 percent more than men with non-STEM jobs.
A 2016 report from the National Girls Collaborative Project drew a favorable picture in some areas of girls’ STEM involvement at schools around the country.
Female students’ achievement in mathematics and science is on par with their male peers and female students participate in high-level mathematics and science courses at similar rates to their male peers, the report said.
However, male students are still three times more likely than female students to take engineering and computer science courses, and enrollment in Advanced Placement computer science A courses was 81 percent male and 19 percent female, it added.
Area school district officials said they continue to work to change those kind of numbers.
Quakertown Community STEM Supervisor Greg Lesher said he hopes the new Career Café series and its mix of women speakers will encourage more girls in the district to take pre-engineering courses.
The Hatboro-Horsham School District in Montgomery County has started a girls STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) initiative at the high school and middle school levels, where women STEAM professionals speak to girls about careers in the field.
In the Bristol Township School District, middle school girls link up via Zoom video conference call with professionals from the township’s Estée Lauder distribution center. They talk to the girls about employment skills, manufacturing, technology, production and other topics, district officials said.
At Middle Bucks Institute of Technology in Warwick, female enrollment in “non-traditional” programs like STEM-related fields has increased from 21 two years ago to 31 this school year, MBIT officials said.
Officials at Archbishop Wood Catholic High School in Warminster said they invite female graduates who have gone on to STEM careers back to speak to students in an effort to encourage girls in STEM.
In the Pennridge School District, girls are involved at all grade levels in STEM classes and clubs, and that’s important, said the district’s Science Curriculum Coordinator Deborah Cotner-Davis.
“Research is showing that there will be many opportunities in the STEM field in the next 20 years,” she said. “I would hope the days of thinking that girls are unable to be in a STEM field are over or at least have been minimized. At Pennridge, the majority of our mathematics and science teachers at the middle and high school levels are women, and they are great role models for our girls.”
All-girls private Catholic high school Villa Joseph Marie in Northampton has greatly increased both its space and programs devoted to STEM during the last 10 years, principal and math teacher Lauren Carr said.
“I’m inspired by the increase in STEM activity,” she said. “Working in an all-girls school, we are always in tune with the issues affecting women in college and the workplace. I love to see a student get excited about a math topic, and I’m thrilled that both the quality of and interest in math and science offerings at Villa are on par with more ‘traditional female’ subjects, such as English and the arts.”
Among many other initiatives, Bucks County Technical High School in Bristol Township runs a Girls in Engineering summer camp for middle school students, BCTHS Administrative Director Leon Poeske said.
“Our overall female enrollment has increased to the point where it’s now 50/50,” he said. “Many technical schools are male dominated since the stereotype is that traditional trades such as plumbing, automotive, welding, etc. are only for males. BCTHS has been breaking that stereotype over the years and we have females in almost all our technical areas.”
Two girls at Middle Bucks Institute of Technology are doing their part to help pave the way for more females in STEM.
Sophomore Valerie Pero, who also attends Central Bucks High School West in Doylestown Borough, is one of only three girls in the MBIT welding technology program out of total enrollment of 35. Junior Margaret Burmester, who also attends New Hope-Solebury High School, is one of three girls of the total of 35 students enrolled in MBIT’s landscaping horticulture and design program.
“I want to be a welder and help to show that it’s a good career and not just for men,” Valerie said.
“I mostly get satisfaction from the fact I’m pursuing my passion, regardless of my gender,” Margaret added. “And I would tell other girls just follow your passion, regardless of what other people say.”
Credit: Bucks County Courier Times
Frank Murphy, this week’s #TeacherTuesday, who hails from Council Rock School District’s Holland Elementary School, leads by example.
In addition to teaching, he’s an author who writes fun, historical fiction books for young readers and he’s a popular speaker, too. His love of teaching and public schools shines through brightly.
Frank’s books are published by Penguin Random House under the Step into Reading series with subjects including Ben Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Babe Ruth, Teddy Roosevelt and Clara Barton, his most recent! Scholastic published his book about Thomas Edison and Sleeping Bear Press issued The Legend of the Teddy Bear.
Says Frank, “I remember reading or hearing Michelle Obama say that public education is America’s greatest pathway to opportunity. I think she is right! From public kindergartens to public universities, if communities and families and individuals invest in public education it pays dividends for generations.”
Frank adds, “Public education doesn’t exclude people like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oprah Winfrey, Ronald Reagan and Clara Barton – all attended or worked in public schools. In fact, the list of difference-makers who attended or taught in public schools is a long one.”
While Frank loves to teach many subjects, his favorite one centers on leadership and he finds ways to incorporate it into the curriculum. “If I have students who encounter a situation in the future and they remember a lesson we studied about growth mindset and embracing struggle or that kindness is common sense, then my teaching mattered.”
Tell us who else goes beyond the everyday to offer an extraordinary experience to his or her students and we’ll feature that person in an upcoming #TeacherTuesday.
Working for NASA is usually an out-of-this-world type aspiration for even the tech savviest 20- or 30-somethings.
But it’s already a reality for a group of students in the technology club at Council Rock High School South in Northampton.
They are considered unpaid employees of the space agency and are working on several projects they hope eventually will be adopted for use aboard the International Space Station or some other NASA facility.
Council Rock South is one of only 125 schools across the country and the only one in Pennsylvania to be working with NASA on such projects, agency Project Manager Florence Gold said. Schools are selected on the basis of applications they submit to the agency stating why they think the school is worthy, she added.
“It’s an amazing experience because not a lot of schools are involved in this and it really motivates us to work hard on our designs, knowing they could be used by astronauts some day,” said Council Rock South senior Marcello Lucci.
“It’s a lot of pressure but also a lot of satisfaction,” added junior Jared Beck.
Among the projects they are working on are:
Gold said NASA is working to perfect a vibration isolation chamber submitted by Council Rock South students several years ago. The chamber would allow fertilized eggs to be sent to the ISS without shattering, she said.
The school has been working with NASA since 2011, Gold added.
“Those students do an incredible job working on the various projects each year,” she said. “Their presentations to NASA engineers are always very professional and they truly take ownership and pride in their work.”
Part of that is a credit to Fred Bauer, a technology education teacher at Council Rock South and faculty adviser for the technology club, Gold said.
“He consistently inspires and encourages his students to reach for the stars,” she said.
Bauer said the students consistently amaze him.
“I don’t consider them to be students in a lot of cases,” he said. “I run the program but they are in charge. They wind up deciding what they will do. Their successes and failures stem from that, and the failures are always learning experiences.”
Credit: Bucks County Courier Times
This week’s #TeacherTuesday, comes to us from Lower Moreland High School. Jamie Lincow, Ph.D., teaches eleventh and twelfth grade AP Spanish Language and Culture and AP Spanish Literature and Culture. As if that isn’t enough, she recently published her second book, “Cultural Connections in the Spanish Classroom” to provide resources for educators of upper level Spanish students. Along with her first book, “AP Spanish Literature Handbook,” it is available on the Teacher’s Discovery website.
Says Jamie, “My passion for teaching Spanish language, literature and culture is unwavering. In seventh grade, my own desire to learn a world language was ignited, and I want to foster that same spark in each of my students. We live in a very diverse world, and appreciation for different languages and the people that speak them is a necessity.”
Let us know what other talented educators are teaching our students every day and we’ll feature them in an upcoming #TeacherTuesday.
Tonight, the country will learn what the Bristol Township community has long-known when “Rise,” a fictionalized story based on Lou Volpe’s time as a former drama teacher at Harry S. Truman High School, premieres on NBC10 at 10 pm. This week’s #TeacherTuesday, Lou taught at the school for 44 years, retiring in 2013. He revolutionized the theater program, received critical acclaim for shows such as Les Miserables, Rent and Beauty and the Beast, and drew the attention of theater producers who came from New York to view performances.
Lou’s story inspired former student Michael Sokolove, The New York Times Magazine writer, to pen Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater in 2013. “The TV show was inspired but not based on the book,” according to Lou, who is serving as a consultant on the production. He notes, “The writer, director, and actors have done a beautiful job retelling the story of a drama teacher.”
Lou credits the Bristol Township School District and the community for believing and trusting in him as he created “a real studio education with hands-on learning. It was almost like Julliard, except it was in Levittown,” he said. And his inspiration extended not only to the students but also to his son, Tom who teaches in the district. His daughter-in-law is also a teacher in Bristol Township.
As to Lou’s philosophy of education: “A teacher needs to provide an environment where learning is foremost – the most important thing going on in the classroom. Education is a living thing… and there are so many elements to a classroom.” He added, “A good educator will be able to provide the art and science of teaching in his classroom; they go hand in hand, in balance. Every time we read a play in my Theater 1 class, we discussed the art of the play and also the writing style, vocabulary in the play, the artist — the whole gestalt. It’s not just one thing – if it is, the class is boring.”
Lou definitely left his mark on his students, many of whom have gone on to careers in acting or entertainment. But beyond that, he says, “It was educational theater. My mission was never to train students to become actors. My mission as a teacher was to educate them in what the art of theater was all about. If they decided to pursue acting, that was great.” But his ultimate goal was more about using theater as a vehicle to open his students’ eyes and minds and increase their understanding of the human condition and the world.
We’re proud of Lou and the thousands of other dedicated teachers who every day make a difference to the students they teach. Tell us who else we should profile in an upcoming #TeacherTuesday.