Educators from Missouri University of Science and Technology and Rolla Middle School were recognized recently for their contributions to Project Lead The Way, a national program designed to encourage more interest in engineering and science among pre-college students.
Dr. Ralph E. Flori Jr., interim chair of mining and nuclear engineering at Missouri S&T, and Jessika Zink, a fifth-grade teacher at Rolla Middle School, were recognized for their contributions to Project Lead The Way during the 2015 Missouri PLTW conference held Nov. 1-2 in Wentzville, Missouri.
Flori received the Outstanding Dedication and Service Award from Missouri PLTW for his decade of service to the program. Flori served as Missouri S&T’s PLTW affiliate director from 2005 – the year Missouri S&T became the state’s PLTW affiliate university – until this year. As the state affiliate director, Flori helped lead the program’s tremendous growth throughout Missouri. Today, 350 elementary and secondary schools throughout the state provide PLTW programs for their students. Flori continues as an advisor to the program.
As the state’s PLTW affiliate, Missouri S&T also trains the teachers of those programs in biomedical science, computer science and engineering. The campus has benefited from the program’s success as well, as one-third of Missouri S&T’s entering first-year students report having taken at least one PLTW class.
Zink received the Outstanding Launch Teacher Award from Missouri PLTW for her work with students in the middle school. Now in her third year of teaching, Zink was cited for her “constant tenacity for cultivating the love of learning with her colleagues and students.” She also convinced the school to purchase lab coats and safety goggles for the fifth-grade students “in order to have her students feel like professional scientists.”
Rolla Public Schools have been involved with PLTW for over a decade. Last year, around 350 Rolla fifth-graders, 120 junior high students and 35 high school students took part in PLTW programs.