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State recognizes AASD’s work on stem program

Mirror photo by Russ O’Reilly Altoona Area Junior High School Principal Lori Mangan (from left) and teachers Eric Kincaid, Rachel Manack, Todd Pesavento and Tim Dzurko accepted an award from the Technology & Engineering Association of Pennsylvania.

Altoona’s junior high technology and engineering teachers have earned state honors.

The Altoona Area Junior High School Technology and Engineering Department, chaired by Tim Dzurko, has been recognized as the 2016 Pennsylvania Middle School Program of Excellence.

The award is bestowed by the Technology & Engineering Association of Pennsylvania, which defines technology and engineering education as “human innovation in action. It involves the generation of knowledge and processes to develop systems that solve problems and extend human capabilities.”

Schools that earned the award last year were the Charles F. Patton Middle School in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School and the Downingtown STEM Academy.

“We’ve been working hard here in the last 20-plus years to build a program. It’s starting to come to life and head in the right direction,” Dzurko said.

” It’s great to be recognized. It’s a life achievement for us. But we’re not in it for the attention, we are there for the kids.”

Dzurko, Rachel Manack, Eric Kincaid and Todd Pesavento comprise the junior high’s technology and engineering education department.

The team is a mix of veterans and second-year teachers.

“Last year, we hired Todd and Eric. They are recent college grads. It’s exciting to have young blood in the program to lead us into future,” he said.

Dzurko and Manack are the veterans. They advise Technology Student Association Chapters at both the junior high and high school. TSA is a curricular club that attends regional, state and national leadership conferences and competitions in 60-plus STEM related events.

Manack has been teaching at the school for about 10 years, and Dzurko, the most senior teacher of the four, has served as department chairman for the past eight years.

The four teachers rotate with  students through four lab environments where they teach technology and engineering components of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Dzurko said.

The junior high school has a manufacturing lab, a robotics lab, a computer aided design lab and communications technology lab.

“Students apply mathematical and scientific concepts in project-based activities. I think the kids enjoy them. They get to see everything they’ve been learning through project-based application. The curriculum excites the kids because its all hands-on learning in science labs related to real world applications.”

The Altoona department was nominated for the award by teachers from the State College School District and evaluated by members of the association, which included an on-site evaluation of education by the association’s awards committee chairperson.

Candidates for the program of excellence award must be characterized as providing learner-centered technology and engineering education instruction of high quality and relevant to a study of technological literacy.

The teachers were recognized during the school board’s Jan. 9 meeting.

“You prove the quality of education in this district,” Board President John Donley said.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.

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