Sarah Schemanske Inspires with STEM
“Love when students are inspired!” -Sarah Schemanske via Twitter
|Ann Arbor Public Schools|
|Ann Arbor, MI|
“Can we do PLTW during recess? PLEASE!!” These are the kinds of expressions students in Sarah Schemanske’s class have been known to exclaim. What’s all the fuss about? Part of the excitement stems from the lessons that are part of the PLTW (Project Lead the Way, an organization that provides STEM curriculum and teacher training for schools) Launch curriculum. But it’s not just the course content that makes students prefer class to recess. A teacher for over 13 years, Schemanske understands that the learning environment is just as important as well-designed curriculum: “We frequently discuss that it’s OK to make mistakes,” she said about how she approaches teaching PLTW lessons with students. “In these conversations, we also talk about how important it is to persevere.” She’s the PLTW teacher at Wines Elementary at Ann Arbor Public Schools and a PLTW Master Teacher. Her expertise with teaching robotics and coding contribute to her status as an exemplary STEM instructor and Tynker Blue Ribbon Educator!
Sarah has a long track record of successful STEM instruction. Before joining Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she taught robotics and created and led a district-wide robotics challenge and robotics club for 11 years. At AAPS, she’s continued to inspire young engineers and makers through the PLTW curriculum and robotics competitions. In 2018, AAPS held its first annual robotics competition, where students’ STEM enthusiasm could spill over into contexts outside of class time. Speaking of the competition, Sarah noted: “It is a great way to establish a fundamental understanding of robotics knowledge for students to build upon and continue exploring if they choose to become members of AAPS middle school and high school robotics teams.”
Not only are students building foundational knowledge of robotics and general engineering through the PLTW program and robotics competitions, they’re also developing key character traits that will serve them in any pursuits they choose, like persistence. Sarah fosters these traits during her instruction–in a video about the robotics competition, she can be heard encouraging students: “Engineers never give up, you just keep going. Overcome!”
As part of the PLTW curriculum, Sarah also teaches coding, where students have space to experiment. She explains that the coding activities “not only taught them the basics of computer science and coding, but it also taught them to try things they had never tried before, to give things a chance…They’re learning through exploration.” Tynker is a tool Sarah uses to teach coding skills, and she’s excited about the functionality it provides for students: “Having a built-in search feature to find programming blocks is AMAZING!! The search option saves time searching for blocks [and] encourages students to take risks and try new blocks. Students love using Tynker because of all of the various options for characters, backgrounds, movements and more. They comment about how user-friendly the program is and the unlimited programming features that are available to them to help enhance and improve their creations.
In addition to being an all-star educator, Sarah shares her knowledge with other practitioners through presenting at the PLTW summit and working as a PLTW master teacher. In this role, she trains teachers from across the country in the PLTW Launch curriculum. Sarah’s own words sum up why she’s chosen to be a STEM educator: “I am so excited for the opportunity to teach my passion every day!”
We’re honored to have Sarah Schemanske as part of our Tynker community as a Blue Ribbon Educator. We can’t wait to see how her students will continue to develop the traits and content skills to be the engineers and technology leaders of tomorrow!
Read our previous post about Tynker Blue Ribbon Educator Lisa Sato, who uses project-based learning to engage students!