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Rockwood High Schools Earn ‘Distinguished School’ Honors from Project Lead the Way

The PLTW Distinguished High School badge for 2020-21All four Rockwood School District high schools – Eureka High, Lafayette High, Marquette High and Rockwood Summit High – recently earned the Distinguished School designation from Project Lead the Way (PLTW).

This is the second year in a row all four schools have earned this honor. They are among 204 schools from around the nation and 26 from Missouri to be named a Distinguished School, a designation that recognizes schools that are committed to increasing student access, engagement and achievement in PLTW courses. Rockwood offers an assortment of biomedical science and pre-engineering courses that align with PLTW standards.

PLTW courses provide 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.

“The combination of the achievements and rigor of the programs at all of our schools, the creative and innovative teachers and students and the longevity of the program in combination with the student data paved the way for PLTW to bestow this tremendous honor and achievement,” said Rockwood STEM and Digital Learning Coordinator Brian Reed. “We are so proud of the PLTW pre-engineering and biomedical staff, students and families for their dedication to the program, especially given the fluctuating circumstances that we experienced last school year.”

More than 1,600 Rockwood students are currently enrolled in PLTW courses – nearly 900 at the high school level and nearly 800 in middle school.

Sean Torgoley has taught the biomedical science courses Principles of Biomedical Science and Human Body Systems at Rockwood Summit for the past six years. He said that PLTW classes put a premium on engaging students through project-based learning. Upper-level students are responsible for conducting their own unique research projects.

“We teach a lot of similar things that they learn in anatomy and biology, but we teach it in a different way where students can see how it is more applicable to real life,” Torgoley said. “The first year I started teaching this, I was blown away. The program has really been growing throughout the school.”

A Rockwood student uses a drill in a PLTW engineering classMark McAllister, the 2020-2021 Lafayette High Teacher of the Year, teaches Introduction to Engineering Design, Civil Engineering and Architecture and Engineering Design and Development. He said PLTW classes help equip students with the critical thinking, investigatory and technical skills needed to enter the workforce or major in engineering in college.

McAllister said he recently heard from a former student who had second thoughts about taking one of his classes after signing up for it. But she stuck with it and, this year, she graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with an engineering degree and was hired at Hormel Foods.

“The curriculum is robust, written by industry professionals and college professors. It’s constantly pored over by that group,” McAllister said. “It might sound like a stretch to say this curriculum and these classes have changed lives, but it’s really true for a good amount of kids. Our classrooms are great and we have so many resources because of the support we have from Brian Reed and district administration.”