Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald receives a Project Lead the Way banner from Project Lead the Way Vice President of Management Thor Misko during the program held Nov. 19.
Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald receives a Project Lead the Way banner from Project Lead the Way Vice President of Management Thor Misko during the program held Nov. 19.
A "shared energy" and widespread support led to the Kingsland School District being recognized for its accomplishments in Project Lead the Way (PTLW), which is leading local students into new areas of science, technology engineering and math (STEM) education.

"When I look at Project Lead the Way classes, they're fun but tough. Students are doing EKGs on one another, learning how to do things that make me almost want to start school over again," said Kingsland High School Principal James Hecimovich, addressing the gathered audience Monday evening at the district's certification as a biomedical education partner in PLTW.

Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald accepted a banner for the district from PLTW Vice President of Management Thor Misko during the ceremony at Kingsland.

Hecimovich elaborated, "I'm proud of the direction we've taken as a district. It's a proud place to be - the first school certified in three Project Lead the Way areas - and we couldn't have done it without the support of the school board. We got a grant to participate in Project Lead the Way, but we couldn't have done it if the school board hadn't said we could go ahead and actually do it. And there's also the staff and community support for this...incredible."

Minnesota PLTW director Jim Mecklenberg noted that in order to make PLTW work in any school, the administration, school board, community and colleges must pledge their support.

"The purpose of certifying a school is to show excellence and commitment at all levels," he stated. "A quality program is easy to sustain. I had the privilege of spending two days here looking at the program and asking questions of the teachers, and when I asked students how they get caught up if they get behind, they said, 'The teachers are always here.' There's ownership of Project Lead the Way here...it's 'ours,' a shared energy and project."

Mayo Clinic Engineering Division head April Horne spoke next, pointing out that what the students are learning in PLTW classes now has real and practical uses in the biomedical field. "I want to let you know that this is amazing. From my perspective as an employer, I saw students in fifth grade and up using language I hear every day at my job, developing skills to take with them to college and the workforce, excited about what they're doing. Students are transformed. I want to congratulate the community."

Misko stood to share, "It's phenomenal what I see happening here. As a former engineer, the work you're doing and providing students access to it is imperative." He cited that the United States' standing as an engineering nation is sliding quickly, but that PLTW provides "relevant matter" that "leads the way" for students to be engaged in STEM classes and consider careers in biomedical engineering and more.

Lastly, McDonald commended Kingsland staff for their enthusiasm and willingness to invest hour upon hour in learning how to use the PLTW curriculum, assisting the district in distinguishing itself as the first school in the state to be certified in three PLTW disciplines.