All four Rockwood School District high schools have been named Project Lead the Way (PLTW)
Distinguished Schools for 2019-2020.Eureka
and Rockwood Summit
are four of only 143 high school programs from across the country that earned this status, including only 16 schools from 10 districts in Missouri.
PLTW is a national organization that provides transformative learning experiences for students and teachers through courses that cultivate an engaging, hands-on classroom environment in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. Its "Distinguished Schools" honor highlights schools and districts that are committed to increasing student access, engagement and achievement in their PLTW programs.
"Content is one thing, but we also have some of the most dedicated teachers in terms of their collaboration, support for students and how they advocate for student success," said Rockwood STEM Coordinator Brian Reed. "We're fortunate to be a part of this program in Rockwood."
Nearly 1,000 Rockwood high school students from all four grades are enrolled in PLTW courses in biomedical and engineering disciplines. The district's elementary and middle schools also have hundreds of students enrolled in PLTW courses.
"Something that's unique to Rockwood is all the middle schools are feeding us students who are coming through the doors excited about engineering. They're a big part of this," said Mike Brown, a material processes teacher at Rockwood Summit. "Also, the support at the district level has been phenomenal. If we need help with technology, curriculum, supplies, there are tons of supports built into the district that make it easier for teachers to do their job."
Rockwood's PLTW courses prize activities and projects that allow students to identify problems and apply what they know to find unique solutions, thereby leading their own learning.
One of the main PLTW tenets is "the power of transportable skills," identifying and cultivating in-demand proficiencies students need to thrive, regardless of college or career path.
"As everything changes in the workplace, there are things you can still take from place to place," said Mark McAllister, a Lafayette material processes teacher. "Businesses need someone who can work with a team. They need people with technical skills, with that background of understanding and knowledge."
In high school, each grade level's course builds upon the previous one, culminating in a capstone course during senior year in which students collaborate on projects that are presented to industry leaders in their fields.
At Eureka High, for instance, Principles of Biomedical Sciences leads into Human Body Systems, which leads into Medical Interventions, which leads into the Biomedical Innovations capstone course.
"That's where kids bring everything together and prepare for their biomedical future," said Jonathon Langenbacher, a Eureka High science teacher. "Kids that go to college, they're so far ahead of other kids. Even when they get into med school after their four undergrad years, they still come back and say they're a step ahead of all the other kids, which is nice to hear."
Material processes teacher Jodie Fowler said a recent student of hers was covering the same ground in his freshman electrical engineering course at Carnegie Mellon University that he did during his junior PLTW course at Lafayette. Christine Pickett, a Rockwood Summit science teacher, said a former biomedical student of hers was hired to run a lab for a professor during his freshman year of college.
"The fact our kids go into these high-level schools and they're at the top of their game when they get there, that's invaluable," Fowler said. "We're getting them ready for a workforce, but before, they have to get through college. They get there, problem-solve, get through it and flourish."