Consortium to provide PBL training as partner in Remake Tomorrow

As one of 17 grantees partnering with The Grable Foundation on a $1.4 million initiative aimed at learning innovation, the Consortium for Public Education will launch a training program to support early-career teachers in using Project-Based Learning (PBL).

“Our goal as part of this initiative, and with our overall program, is to catalyze a PBL culture in our region that will emphasize a growth mindset and life-long learning among educators,” said Sarah Brooks, one of three Consortium Program Directors who design and teach our PBL training sessions.

Working in collaboration with Intermediate Unit I, the Consortium will implement the training region-wide.

“We’re very proud to partner with the Consortium in this critical area,” said Don Martin, Ed.D., Executive Director of Intermediate Unit 1, one of the state’s 29 regional district support organizations. “We know from empirical data that exposing students and educators to PBL changes the culture and climate of learning.”

PBL isn’t emphasized in education degree programs, if it is included at all. But it’s seen as critical to training a new generation of teachers because it can help students better grasp the relevance of regular classroom lessons and engage them more deeply in learning. PBL also can provide students with better preparation for the workplace because the soft skills it cultivates often are as important to employers as academic and technical strengths.

“PBL propels instruction to be more student-centered, elevating each learner’s unique strengths, perspectives, and experiences,” said Aaron Altemus, another of the three Consortium Program Directors who collaborate on our PBL training.

“By honoring every student’s experience and bringing in students as co-learners with the educator, PBL also implicitly creates an inclusive environment in the classroom,” added Christy Kuehn, PhD, the third of our instructors.

The Consortium has become known for a unique approach to PBL and has done trainings both for educators in Pennsylvania and out-of-state.  Among other reasons, its program incorporates design-thinking and encourages practitioners to build their practice, using the central elements of PBL individually as engagement tools during regular classroom lessons and in various combinations for projects as they move toward full-scale PBL assignments.

Paving the way to partner amid pandemic

The Consortium is rolling out a menu of virtual options this week for employers and post-secondary partners looking for ways to work with K-12 students and maintain visibility in public schools.

Businesses or academic institutions can certainly execute most, if not all of these ideas, on their own, but they also are welcome to contact the Consortium for school connections and support. To do so, either email Program Director Debbie Pixton or use our electronic form.

The options we’ve developed are aimed at supporting students in achieving state standards for career learning. For employers and post-secondary partners, they provide opportunities to showcase jobs and academic or training programs to young people who are gathering the information they need to make post-secondary choices.

The support we’re offering comes in response to feedback we received at a mid-summer meeting of businesses and post-secondary partners involved in our Future Ready Partnerships initiative. At the time, most schools had not yet determined whether they would offer classroom instruction, remote learning or operate on a hybrid model.

Because most schools are now offering hybrid programs, the virtual options we’ve developed can be made available both to students in classrooms and those working online.



Learn about our Career Journeys Student Video Contest!

We’re asking educators to encourage students in grades 6-12 to enter our Career Journeys Student Video Contest. Just entering provides some useful experience and winners can look forward to even more! So please share our contest guidelines in your classes and give students links to our online entry form. All entries are due no later than October 10 and must be accompanied by a signed release from a parent or guardian for students under 18.

Human-Centered Design training can help districts be more agile and responsive

At a time of unprecedented change, school systems need tools to ensure they’re agile and responsive. That’s why the Consortium will be offering customized Human-Centered Design (HCD) workshops to help districts and their educators address challenges while taking full stock of stakeholder needs.

Education is all about people—students, parents, teachers, community members—and HCD is an approach to problem-solving that puts people at the center of decisions. It provides methods to bring all viewpoints to bear on a problem, identify options to address it, and find ways to sort and prioritize strategies that can lead to a solution.

Our training introduces the principles of HCD and walks educators through its practices, including methods for building empathy, brainstorming, collaboration, and setting priorities.  Our trainers can also facilitate workshops tailored to help your team tackle specific topics or challenges.

Our past workshops have ranged from helping one district through a needs assessment to helping others focus on stakeholder engagement, customer service, and even a full-district redesign.

Talk with us about your current challenges and we’ll tailor an HCD workshop for you! For more information, contact Aaron Altemus at, Sarah Brooks at or Debbie Pixton at



Consortium trainings offer PBL strategies for both classroom and online learning

Whether students are in classrooms or learning online, the training we offer in Project-Based Learning (PBL) can help teachers use PBL strategies to create engaging learning opportunities.

The Consortium’s trainings this year will adopt a hybrid model, combining videos our PBL team has created for participants to watch online, when they have time, with virtual coaching sessions where they can come together for support, discussion and questions.

Our virtual coaching sessions give participants personalized support from project design through implementation, while our video series guides them through the key elements of PBL, starting with learning outcomes and assessments. The videos also include both in-person and online strategies for reflection, feedback, brainstorming, project planning, and student voice and choice.

Educators, schools, districts and Out-of-School programs interested in our training resources or in training sessions customized to their specific needs can contact Aaron Altemus at, Sarah Brooks at or Christy Kuehn, PhD, at


Career Journeys video series now spans 16 different career clusters

Our library of Career Journeys videos now includes interviews with more than 50 professionals whose jobs span all 16 career clusters that the U.S. Department of Labor uses to track employment. That’s up from just a handful of interviews last spring when we launched the series to expand options for virtual career learning after COVID-19 closed schools and canceled opportunities for career exploration at employer work-sites.

The videos proved an instant hit. Counselors and teachers quickly began signing up for email notifications of new videos, and the series has since logged more than 2000 views!

To make the collection more user-friendly, we’ve now organized the videos by category on the Consortium’s website. When using them, students and teachers should be aware that many careers can overlap different clusters. We also recommend that students look at least at a couple of careers in fields that aren’t high on their lists of interests.

“We set the web page up so that it would be easy for students to immediately identify interviews in the fields that most interest them,” said Program Director Debbie Pixton, who oversees Career Journeys and conducts most of the interviews.

“But students also should look at clusters outside their main areas of interest because there are so many jobs they might not even know about,” she added. “If they browse the categories, they may stumble across careers that pique their curiosity, or require skills they’ve cultivated and enjoy using. Or, they might just identify with one of our interviewees.”

Pixton also said there are many ways students and teachers can use the videos beyond merely exploring careers.

For example, students might use the video interviews as models for talking with adults about careers. Among other ways, teachers might use videos to illustrate how their own academic specialties come into play in different jobs and industries.  The video introduction to our Career Journeys web page offers more suggestions for students. And, for teachers, there’s a downloadable PDF of ideas and tips in our introductory text for using the videos in classrooms.











CPE welcomes new Board member

We’re pleased to welcome Don Martin, Ed.D., Executive Director of Intermediate Unit 1, to our Board of Directors. His appointment was approved in July.

“We’ve always valued Don’s insight and we’ll certainly benefit from his extensive experience in education, both in the classroom and at the administrative level,” said The Consortium’s Executive Director Mary Kay Babyak. “Don’s work with IU 1 and the districts it serves also brings us perspective we value from partners in neighboring counties.” One of 29 intermediate units across the state, IU 1 serves Fayette, Greene and Washington counties.

Martin became IU 1’s Executive Director last year, after serving as Assistant Executive Director for nearly a decade. Prior to joining IU 1, he was Superintendent of Frazier School District. In addition to Frazier, he served as an administrator in two other districts, East Allegheny and California, and before that, spent 12 years as an elementary school teacher.


Latest Career Journeys interviews cover logistics, construction and hospitality sectors

Latest Career Journeys interviews cover three different industries In our latest Career Journeys videos, a FedEx manager explains why getting packages where they need to be requires continual upgrades of technology. A Human Resources Specialist at Nemacolin Woodlands talks about the people skills needed in his job. And a Construction Estimator tells why recruiters at …
Continue reading Latest Career Journeys interviews cover logistics, construction and hospitality sectors »

Three different people, three different paths…

In our latest Career Journeys videos, LaTrenda Sherrill, M.B.A., a business consultant,  talks about entrepreneurship. Omar Badran tells us about nursing and his work as a service Improvement Specialist for UPMC’s Intensive Care Units. And the Rev. Lee Scott shares the soul-nurturing satisfactions he finds tending his family’s farm when he’s not in the office of his Downtown ministry. Watch to learn more!  And please share their stories with students exploring careers!


Student Powered Solutions project makes Covestro’s sustainability magazine

We’re honored that one of our Student Powered Solutions projects was featured in Covestro LLC’s newly issues sustainability magazine.  A team of Covestro employees working on the company’s Future of Mobility initiative engaged student teams to envision what features would be needed in autonomous vehicles. To learn more look at page 23 of the magazine.