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$330K Penn State New Ken grant will train Alle-Kiski Valley teachers tech skills |
Valley News Dispatch

$330K Penn State New Ken grant will train Alle-Kiski Valley teachers tech skills

Mary Ann Thomas
A sign near the entrance to the Penn State New Kensington entrance along Route 780 in Upper Burrell.

A $328,000 state grant to a Penn State New Kensington collaborative with 14 Alle-Kiski Valley school districts will pay for teacher education and learning modules for students to take on computer coding and other technologies.

The grant is part of $30 million awarded by Gov. Tom Wolf’s PAsmart, which is an initiative to expand science and technology education.

Since its inception in 2014, the Penn State New Kensington-led ABC CREATE collaborative has engaged hundreds of teachers in the A-K Valley’s school districts with training opportunities and tools so that districts can strengthen STEM education and students can become more technologically fluent.

STEM is a grouping of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

The money will pay for much needed teacher training, educational modules and more, according to Colleen Smith, STEM outreach coordinator for Penn State New Kensington

Starting this summer, teachers in all 14 Alle-Kiski Valley public school districts will be able to enroll in professional development courses to learn computer coding, according to Smith.

“They need to develop an understanding of how coding works and the underlying technology,” she said.

The grant money will pay for teachers to take the courses during the summer.

Dave Keibler, elementary principal of Leechburg Area School District, said the grant money for teacher education will be invaluable.

“We only have so many teachers with certifications or the knowledge base to teach coding and computer science,” he said. “This grant will provide the opportunities.

“This will open the door for additional staff members to be trained in coding and other technologies that are being used out in today’s work world.”

The other issue is the money, and where’s the grant is essential.

“We don’t have the time or money to have them trained now,” he said.

The grant will pay for teachers to develop “grab-and-go modules,” or learning pathways, with STEM-based concepts for other teachers to use in their classes. Again, teachers will be paid in the summer to develop these modules, Smith said.

Benefits to be seen in 2020

Benefits to the students in the classroom will likely start to happen in 2020, according to Smith.

The grant will also pay to find a way to provide opportunities for all students, no matter their background or socio-economic level, to have equal access to gain skills in computers and science, Smith said.

Gennaro R. Piraino, Jr. , superintendent of Franklin Regional, said technology will play a role in the “Fourth Industrial Revolution and beyond.”

“While our students are in our schools, they need real-world experiences that enable them to solve complex problems using critical thinking and creativity,” Piraino said.

It’s critical that there are resources to support collaboratives, he said.

PA Smart and other grants, Piraino said, are monies “well spent to ensure that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provides our students with a world-class education and that our business community is vibrant and our economy is robust.”

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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