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ECET2 draws nearly 100 educators

Fox Chapel High School teacher Ryan Devlin told educators at the weekend Western Pennsylvania ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers) event that his career course was set from the day he stepped foot in his first-grade classroom. The way she radiated warmth, the patience she showed giving lessons and the hugs she dispensed hugs as needed both motivated him to teach and exemplified teaching at its best, he said.

Devlin was the morning keynote speaker at the inaugural region-wide ECET2. Michelle King, a teacher at Pittsburgh’s Environmental Charter School, gave the evening keynote.

Devlin’s message was just one teacher’s answer to a question that resounded throughout the Conference—Why do I teach? Others ranged from the polar opposite of his—some chose the profession to improve on subpar teaching they’d experienced themselves-—to inspiring and opening minds, giving students a brighter future and sharing a lifelong love of learning.

In collaboration with the Consortium, educators from several Pittsburgh Public Schools organized ECET2 in the spirit of the ECET2 events that take place nationwide with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The “un-conferences” give teachers from differing districts an opportunity to network and share best practices, hear speakers and attend workshops, most of of which are hosted by teachers.

Workshops at the two-day regional event held April 29-30 at the Pittsburgh Airport Doubletree Hotel included sessions on cultural awareness and inclusivity; technology and teaching methods and classroom practices that can help students prepare for real-world experiences, among others.

Workshop hosts included educators from Blackhawk School District, Laurel Highlands School District, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Steel Valley School District and Woodland Hills School District. Additionally, there were sessions hosted by a Pittsburgh Alderdice High School Student and a representative of Price Waterhouse Coopers.

 

Mon Valley partners join in Remake Learning Days

 

RemakeLearningDays-wpEight Mon Valley partners are hosting hands-on learning demonstrations during Remake Learning Days, a regional event from May 15 through May 26 to showcase innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Hosting activities that anyone in the region can attend are Baldwin Borough Library, Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Clairton City School District, McKeesport Area School District, South Allegheny, Steel Valley, Yough School District and Woodland Hills School District. Learn dates times and exact locations here.

Conference gives kids firsthand look at career options

A visit to Dollar Bank during the annual student Leadership Conference for The Future Is Mine (TFIM) helped Amani, a McKeesport Area High School senior realize she might find her niche in financial services, even though her love is foreign languages. “I could go into international banking,” she said.

For Joseph, a Bethlehem Center High School senior who’s considering a theater career, a visit to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust offered not only a look behind the stage, but also a chance to find out from actors and others what their professional lives are like. It couldn’t help but be an eye-opener—most of them said they work multiple jobs.

Firsthand exposure to work environments and to professionals in different careers always is a highlight of the two-day Conference, which caps the school year for TFIM, a Consortium program designed to help students explore and prepare for careers. Some 16 employers open their doors every year for attendees to visit, interact with employees, and sometimes even get a taste of what their work is like. Visits to Urban Design Associates (UDA), for example, always feature design charrettes, where kids try to reimagine a landscape and plan its redevelopment. This year, they focused on Smallman Street in the Strip District and the old produce terminal there.

Themed Ready for the Future, this year’s Conference took place April 20-21 at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center. It brought together some 400 students and team advisors from nearly 30 school districts.

The event also is designed to give participants a chance to look at higher education opportunities, attend a dozen career-related workshops, visit a cultural venue and meet peers from communities that run the gamut from urban and suburban to rural.

“The Conference is really beneficial because you get to look into what you might want to do and it definitely helps build your communications skills,” said Brianna, a Bethlehem Center High School senior.

It can be a life changing experience for some kids, as can the program itself.  Just ask Austin Davis, Executive Assistant to Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a TFIM alum and McKeesport grad. The program had a such a profound impact, he’s helped host employer site visits at TFIM’s annual conferences for the past several years. The way he sees it, “There’s usually a barrier for high school students trying to meet working professionals.” The exploration experiences TFIM facilitates, “help get you past that,” he said

Davis should know: he now holds the same job TFIM gave him the opportunity to shadow. What’s more, the individual who held it at the time, during former County Chief Executive Dan Onoroto’s tenure, has become a friend and mentor from whom he still seeks advice. “It’s a testament to how you can build relationships” through TFIM, he said.

In addition to the County Executive’s Office, the Cultural Trust and Dollar Bank, employers hosting site visits included: ALCOSAN; Allegheny General Hospital; Carnegie Museum of Art; Google; Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank; Huntington National Bank; i-Heart Media; Jefferson Hospital; Schell Games; Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum; Waterways Association of Pittsburgh and the Gateway Clipper; and United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

A post-secondary education fair held at the Sen. John Heinz History Center gave attendees a chance to visit with admissions reps from: Alderson Broadus University; Art Institute of Pittsburgh; Community College of Allegheny County; Indiana University of Pennsylvania; LaRoche College; Penn State Greater Allegheny; Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics; Pitt Greensburg; Pittsburgh Technical College; Robert Morris University; and Slippery Rock University.

Sponsors for the event included: American Eagle Outfitters; Art Institute of Pittsburgh; Comcast; Dollar Bank; Duquesne Light Company; Eat n’ Park; the Education Foundation; Highmark; HM Insurance Group; Huntington National Bank; LaRoche College; National Center for Defense Manufacturing & Machining; NexTier; Nutrition Inc., Pitt Greensburg; the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation; the Pittsburgh Pirates; Pittsburgh Technical College; Sen. John Heinz Regional History Center; Scottdale Bank; UPMC; United Way; University of Pittsburgh; and Waste Management. Our site hosts are: ALCOSAN; Allegheny County; Allegheny General Hospital; Carnegie Museum of Art; Dollar Bank; Google; Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank; Huntington National Bank; i-Heart Media; Jefferson Hospital; Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; Schell Games; Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall; Waterways Association & Gateway Clipper; United Way and Urban Design Associates.

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Thanks to site hosts and sponsors, TFIM’s annual two-day Student Leadership Conference kicks off April 20

Our annual two-day Student Leadership Conference for The Future Is Mine (TFIM) kicks off Thursday morning with site visits to 16 different employers and support from dozens of others.

Please join us in shout out to the companies and organizations opening their doors and/or providing financial support so that 350 students from nearly 30 high schools can explore careers and get Ready for the Future, the theme for this year’s event.

Our financial sponsors this year are:  American Eagle Outfitters; Art Institute of Pittsburgh; Comcast; Dollar Bank; Duquesne Light Company; Eat n’ Park; the Education Foundation; Highmark; HM Insurance Group; Huntington National Bank; LaRoche College; National Center for Defense Manufacturing & Machining; NexTier; Nutrition Inc., Pitt Greensburg; the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation; Pittsburgh Marriott City Center; the Pittsburgh Pirates; Pittsburgh Technical College; Sen. John Heinz Regional History Center; Scottdale Bank; UPMC; United Way; University of Pittsburgh; and Waste Management.

Ready for the Future is the Theme for this year's Conference

This year’s Conference theme is: Ready for the Future 

Employers hosting site visits include: ALCOSAN; Allegheny County; Allegheny General Hospital; Carnegie Museum of Art; Dollar Bank; Google; Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank; Huntington National Bank; i-Heart Media; Jefferson Hospital; Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; Schell Games; Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall; Waterways Association & Gateway Clipper; United Way and Urban Design Associates.

Along with our supporters and hosts, post-secondary schools and military reps from our region will also help students attending the Conference in planning their futures. On hand for our post-secondary education fair will be: Alderson Broaddus University, Art Institute of Pittsburgh; Community College of Allegheny County; Indiana University of Pennsylvania, LaRoche College; Penn State University; Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, Pitt Greensburg; Pittsburgh Technical College; Robert Morris University; Slippery Rock University and the U.S. Army.

Following their post-secondary fair, students will head to the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center for dinner, a dance, an overnight stay and, on Friday, a half day of career related workshops. We’ll tell you more after the Conference begins, so visit our website soon again!

 

First Energy hosts project presentations 

Students from Blackhawk High School presented findings this week to engineers at First Energy who visited the informal displays showing how they’d approach challenges related to nuclear energy.

The students embarked on the projects as participants in our Student Powered Solutions program.

The challenges ranged from aesthetic to scientific, with some teams working on designs to improve the appearance of cooling towers, others working on ways to reduce nucleotide discharges and still others weighing the advantages and disadvantages of alternative forms of power production.

Five classes, ranging from art and algebra to environmental science and physics, took part. A group of students in the school’s Technology Students Association (TSA) also participated with a demonstration of a bicycle that produced power, turning kinetic energy into electricity through a small generator. They used the power to charge cellphones and spin a wheel to make spatter paintings.

For Jacob, a sophomore who participates in TSA, working with the engineers at First Energy was an opportunity “work on something where you get the chance to talk to the people who really do it.”

“You get a lot more out of it because of that,” he said.

For Brandon, who worked on a project that explored the advantages and disadvantages of geothermal power production in comparison to nuclear, “It was just good to have a real challenge.”

His teammate Elijah said presenting the projects at display stations “really helps your public speaking skills.”

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Consortium taps six winners at Champions of Learning Awards celebration and makes special tribute

Winners in six categories took center stage Saturday, April 1, 2017 when the Consortium for Public Education presented its annual Champions of Learning Awards.

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2017 Champions of Learning Award Winners

Don Marinelli, Director of Innovation at 535 Media/Inven Global, emceed the event at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center.

“We had an outstanding group of finalists,” said the Consortium’s Executive Director Mary Kay Babyak. “Every year, I am so impressed at the way community organizations, businesses, educators and volunteers work together to create such rich and varied learning experiences for kids in our region.”

Sharing in the celebration, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania presented its “Be There” awards to individuals who go above and beyond to support youth in Allegheny County.

The Consortium presented awards in six categories—the Arts; Business Partnerships; Classroom Teaching; Community Outreach; Leadership and Volunteerism.

Additionally, the Special Tribute for 2017 went to Bill Isler, former President and Chief Executive Officer of The Fred Rogers Co. and former Pittsburgh Public School Board President. Isler was recognized as a lifelong educator and children’s advocate.

In The Arts, Prime Stage took the honors for using arts and entertainment to enhance education. For Business Partnerships, the award went to Blueroof Technologies, a McKeesport community development firm that creates STEM learning and employment opportunities for youth. The award for Classroom Teaching went to Robert Rodrigues, an award-winning History teacher at Chartiers Valley High School. The Isaiah Project, which provides mentoring and other programming to improve graduation rates among at-risk youth in Pittsburgh’s Hilltop neighborhoods, won the award for Community Outreach. The award for Leadership went to Randy Miller, Laurel Highlands School District’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction and Dennis Webber won the Volunteerism award for his service as Board President of the Greenville Area School District and for other ways in which he has volunteered his time there.

CCK hosted college and apprenticeship visits in March

Our College & Career Knowledge (CCK) program has had a busy month in March, with visits to Penn State Greater Allegheny and two apprenticeship training centers.

Groups of students from Clairton, McKeesport Area and Steel Valley High Schools spent a half at Penn State Greater Allegheny touring the campus and peppering staff and college students with questions about everything from what to expect on tests to how to get help when you’re finding courses or tests too difficult.

On visits to apprenticeship training centers run by the Bricklayers & Allied Crafts and the Operating Engineers of Western Pennsylvania, students from Lawrence County Career & Technical Center and McKeesport Area, Monessen and Steel Valley high schools tried their hands at laying bricks and running heavy equipment.

At the training centers, students and media learned that a construction boom in southwestern Pennsylvania is expected to dramatically increase demand for apprentices, opening more opportunities for interested students.

Stories in the Post-Gazette, Tribune-Review and on WESA discussed a confluence of factors, including Baby Boom retirements, that is causing many of the region’s 16 apprenticeship programs to double or triple the size of their classes over the coming decade.

Photos below capture some scenes from the Operating Engineers and Bricklayers training centers and Penn State Greater Allegheny.

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Students recommend remedies for stormwater runoff 

Teams from Penn Hills and South Fayette school districts presented findings and recommendations last week after ALCOSAN  (Allegheny County Sanitary Authority) tasked them with identifying ways to reduce storm water runoff on the campuses of their respective schools.

They took up the challenge as part of our Student Powered Solutions program, which pairs classrooms with companies or community organizations to create Project-Based Learning (PBL) experiences. ALCOSAN’s Scholastic Outreach program provided the consulting assignment when ALCOSAN engineer Julia Spicher backgrounded the students on the reasons the authority needs to promote better storm water management.

The teams devised numerous approaches to the problem after researching options and reviewing them with Nancy Lonnett Roman, a landscape architect with Pashek Associates and David Esposito, an architect with Eckles Architecture & Engineering, who volunteered professional guidance.

Among others, the Penn Hills team came up with the idea of putting a drainage and recovery system at the base of a hillside from which water flows onto their athletic field during storms. They proposed channeling the water to a pump that would recycle it to a school garden.

Among ideas South Fayette’s team recommended was a cap for the residential roof plumbing stack vents that prevent sewer gases from entering homes. They designed and made a cylindrical prototype with open sides for gases to escape and a conical top to keep rainwater from entering the sewage system during storms.

Both district teams also determined that roof gardens would help reduce runoff and conserve energy. They noted that roof gardens can absorb as much as 60% of the water that normally flows off roofs during storms and reduce air conditioning needs when the water evaporates from the planting medium.

Project Based Learning has been gaining advocates in education because it provides opportunities for students to apply classroom lessons. Projects can make abstract concepts more tangible and help motivate kids because they demonstrate the relevance of their academic learning.

Because Project-Based Learning  usually is conducted in teams, the students also have opportunities to build soft skills that they’ll need in the workplace—from communications, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, to organization, planning and presentation. Research shows these skills can be as important to future success as academic achievement.

One Penn Hills student said the ALCOSAN project was an opportunity to “change how we’re learning.” Two teachers involved also said they found the experience changed the way they normally teach and helped them grow as educators.

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Human-centered design principles lay foundation for partnership discussions

Districts involved in the Consortium’s Career Ready initiative convened this week with representatives from business and higher education to develop models for partnerships.

Using human-centered design principles at a March 15 meeting, they worked in groups to flesh out “personas” of students in several age groups and as well as companies and colleges that could partner with schools. The discussions focused on addressing needs that might make partnerships beneficial to each persona.

Career Ready was designed to help schools expand career awareness and preparation opportunities for students. In doing so, it’s also expected to contribute to workforce development, a critical concern for employers facing Baby Boom retirements or skill gaps among applicants.

Community partnerships can support career awareness and preparation in various ways. For example, some might help kids get exposure to different careers, through job-shadowing, site visits, internships or other means. Additionally, they can offer opportunities for hands-on learning or development of soft skills needed in the workplace. Partnerships also can help educators become more familiar with regional employment needs and employer expectations.

The Consortium already has begun creating some models for partnerships through its own programs, including Student Powered Solutions, College & Career Knowledge and The Future Is Mine (TFIM).

Under Career Ready, the goal is to expand partnerships among schools, businesses and post-secondary schools.

Sixteen employers to host site visits 

Some 400 students and team advisors from nearly 30 high schools participating in The Future Is Mine (TFIM) will fan out on the first day of our 2017 Student Leadership Conference to explore careers with 16 different employers.

The two-day Conference takes place April 20-21 at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center. This year’s event also will feature a college fair and as well as a visit to the Senator John Heinz History Center.

tfimSite hosts this year are: Allegheny General Hospital; ALCOSAN; Allegheny County; Carnegie Museum of Art; Dollar Bank; Google; Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank; Huntington Bank; iHeartMedia; Jefferson Regional Medical Center; Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; Schell Games; Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum; United Way; Urban Design Associates; and the Waterways Association of Pittsburgh and Gateway Clipper Fleet.

Post-secondary schools signed up so far for the college fair include: Community College of Allegheny County; Indiana University of Pennsylvania; LaRoche College; Penn State University; Pittsburgh Technical College; Robert Morris University and Slippery Rock University.

This year’s Conference theme is Ready for the Future!