NEWARK – A local school has been recognized for its efforts to provide learning opportunities through Project Lead the Way Engineering and Biomedical Science programs.
Worcester Technical High School was recently recognized as a Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Distinguished School. PLTW is a national nonprofit organization that develops STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curricula for elementary, middle and high schools.
The PLTW Distinguished School recognition honors schools committed to increasing student access, engagement and achievement in their PLTW programs. To be eligible for the designation, Worcester Tech had to meet certain criteria; one, offer at least three PLTW courses; two, have 25 percent of students or more participate in PLTW courses, or of those who participated in PLTW, at least 33 percent took two or more PLTW courses; and three, have 70 percent of students or more earn a Proficient or higher on PLTW End-of-Course Assessments, or 10 percent of students earn the AP + PLTW Student Achievement.
“It is a great honor to recognize Worcester Technical High School for their commitment to students,” Vince Bertram, President and CEO of PLTW, said in a statement. “They are a model for what school should look like, and they should be very proud of ensuring students have the knowledge and skills to be career ready and successful on any career path they choose.”
Principal Caroline Bloxom said Worcester Tech was one of 133 high schools across the nation to receive this distinction.
“Worcester Tech’s PLTW programs well exceeded all of the criteria,” she said.
Worcester Tech currently offers four biomedical science courses and five engineering courses through PLTW.
Valerie Zienty, a pre-engineering teacher at Worcester Tech, said the PLTW Engineering program introduces subjects such as mechanical and electrical engineering, 3D design and digital electronics, and offers students an opportunity to develop problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork and presentation skills.
“It’s something that’s applicable no matter where you go or what major you pursue in college,” she said.
Pre-engineering student Kevin Beck, a junior at Stephen Decatur High School, commended the PLTW program.
“I knew I wanted to be an engineer from the beginning of high school, so I chose to do the engineering program,” he said. “All three years so far have been a lot of fun and I’ve learned a lot. It’s really interesting material.”
Bill Severn, a biomedical science teacher at Worcester Tech, said courses offered through PLTW teach biomedical students various skills.
“It’s for students who want to be doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and anything in between,” he said. “The program is very much hands on and inquiry based learning. Students are presented with problems and they research solutions. They also have a lab component where they are learning various lab skills.”
Biomedical student Danielle Munn, also a junior at Stephen Decatur, said the biomedical program allows her to pursue her interests.
“One of the reasons I enjoy biomed is because you learn to work together really well, but you also learn to work by yourself and figure things out …,” she said. “I also really like the program because it’s hands on. It’s something different than a regular class because it’s something that you are really interested in. You have more of a motivation to work harder at it.”
Zienty, who applied for the distinction on behalf of Worcester Tech, said more than 85 percent of engineering and biomedical student complete all required courses and 75 percent of her engineering students go on to pursue engineering degrees in college.
Bloxom attributes the success and growth of the two programs to its teachers.
“This school year, 135 students are enrolled in engineering courses and 106 students are enrolled in biomed courses at Worcester Tech,” she said. “Besides having dynamic students from Stephen Decatur, Snow Hill, and Pocomoke high schools in these programs, their teachers, Valerie Zienty, Aarti Sangwan, Bill Severn, Silviya Gallo, Joe Miller, and Rick Stephens, are extremely talented and dedicated. Between them, they have degrees in Electrical and Chemical Engineering, Electronics, Computer Science, Manufacturing, Physics, Biology, Environmental Science, and Mathematics. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the parents, who are actively involved in their children’s education.”
Bloxom said the school will also introduce a PLTW Computer Science program next year, making Worcester Tech one of the few Maryland schools to offer all three PLTW programs of study.
“We want to meet whatever need there is,” she said.