Jeanella Clark started her professional career in the civil engineering field designing site plans, roadways, and municipal storm drain systems in Arizona. Through an opportunity facilitated by the engineering firm, she began mentoring middle school students at a local school. She enjoyed being with students so much she went back to school and earned a degree teaching Secondary Mathematics in 2004.
In 2006 she was approached to teach Project Lead the Way high school engineering curriculum and math. Project Lead the Way is a project based curriculum that focuses on learning concepts and immediately applying the learning in a real life context. It was at that time that Jeanella noticed that there is a significant disconnect between how learning occurs in a Project Lead the Way class versus a math class. This was the first time Jeanella was faced with the issue of relevancy in education.
“I can teach and reteach until I’m blue in the face but students don’t truly learn information unless they can immediately apply it to a real-life situation. Students become more vocal regarding the relevancy of what they are learning as they progress in school. They want to make connections.”
Jeanella is convinced that in order for our kids to compete globally that there is more that has to be done. Traditional models of schooling focus heavily on testing and grades which can discourage motivation. The students lose interest which hinders curiosity which can hurt students creatively.
“I want to help students and teachers recapture why they are in school to begin with and provide ways for them to engage outside the classroom so that they can apply what they are learning in authentic ways. Students will believe that grades define who they are and what they are personally capable of in life. This leads students to believe intelligence is finite, not a muscle that can grow stronger.”
Jeanella hopes to create a teaching model that any teacher, school or district administrator can use to bring community involvement to schools, professional networks for teachers and relevant learning for students. The model will initially include teacher workshops to provide teachers with the ability to build professional networks both inside and outside the school building, teacher mixers that add to the teacher’s outside networks Jeanella hopes that what she creates will encourage the outside professional community to engage with our students in school without taking away from their personal or work lives.
“When I first started teaching Project Lead the Way, I had to clean out the classroom of a teacher who used the classroom for 20 years before me. I came across these Apple Campaign posters from the 90s that carried the tagline ‘Think Different’. I went through the last 20 years of the previous teacher’s life and these posters just put the whole idea in perspective.”
As the last two weeks draw to a close, Jeanella has been working closely with teachers, administrators and industry professionals to develop a system that will help students answer ‘why am I learning this’? Jeanella is looking to speak with any administrators in the Northland CAPs and BVCAPS programs as well as youth development educators across the metro. Then come see their minimum viable product at Lean Lab’s Launch Day 2015.