Photos and profile by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Sarah Schemanske grew up in Highland and completed her undergraduate degree at Albion College. She then taught for seven years in North Carolina, gaining experience in second, third and fourth grades while leading the district’s LEGO League Robotics Program and competition.
Also while in North Carolina, Schemanske earned her master’s degree specializing in reading education from Appalachian State University—which she attended during the school’s (in)famous defeat of the Michigan Wolverines. She then moved back to Michigan and taught third grade in Clinton for four years.
Now in her 12th year of teaching, Schemanske happily joined AAPS this past fall. She says she absolutely loves teaching the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Launch K-5 curriculum at Wines and Carpenter, where she helps ignite a passion for learning through the interactive, engaging, hands-on curriculum.
Helping students learn to code through the computer science modules is a particular favorite part of her job. In fact, she was recently selected as a Tynker Blue Ribbon Educator after Tynker sought educators who were ready to make coding an everyday practice with students and help prepare the next generation of code-ready students and teachers. Tynker is the coding program AAPS uses with the fourth grade computer science module.
Schemanske has also been selected as a PLTW master teacher and will train other teachers from across the country in the PLTW curriculum this summer. She has had two blog submissions published on the National PLTW website, and will be presenting at the PLTW National Summit this fall with her PLTW colleague Kelly Newton. Educators from 10 countries will be represented.
Schemanske recently purchased a home in South Lyon and loves the fact that she lives close to her family, especially her nieces and nephews. She has a beagle named Shelby.
In her free time, Schemanski enjoys riding her bike on the Huron Valley Trail and in Kensington Metropark, and participating in cardio drumming and Zumba.
Describe an average work day. My average workday is on the go! As a PLTW Launch Teacher, I push into the classroom and co-teach with the classroom teacher. I co-teach two grade levels at a time for six to eight weeks before working with the next grade levels. I teach six classes a day. My daily lessons our engaging, hands-on activities where students are able to learn through exploration. We focus on the curriculum while also learning it’s okay to make mistakes, collaboration is a critical element of success and recognizing learning should be fun.
What was always written on your report card in grade school? My teachers were always complimentary on my academic accomplishments but frequently noted I talked too much in class. I was always the classroom helper willing to help with any task and be a friend to others.
How do you stay organized? Organization is key for any teacher, especially traveling teachers. I do a lot of planning and preparation prior to the lessons. All of my materials and resources are labeled and categorized. Google Drive helps me stay organized into folders and allows me to work collaboratively with my AAPS PLTW cohort to share resources. Labels are a great way to help me remember exactly where materials are located. All my materials are organized my grade level and then put into baskets and bags to help me have materials quickly and readily available for students when entering their classrooms. Each lesson is led with Google Slides to help students understand the learning objectives for the day and to help remind me of all the exciting features and aspects I want to incorporate to help provide the students with the best learning opportunities.
How do students benefit from PLTW? PLTW engages students’ curiosity through project based learned. It sparks interests and exposes them to content areas they may have never explored otherwise. Students are able to actively engage in content areas such as computer science without any preconceived notions about those areas.
PLTW provides fun, age-appropriate lessons that help build student interests and help students see their dreams for future career endeavors are limitless. PLTW implements Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) curriculum.
Students learn through exploration and then have concepts reinforced and misconceptions cleared up. Rather than providing instruction and then asking students to prove what was just taught, the PLTW curriculum allows the students to make the discoveries on their own. Students’ eyes light up with excitement daily when their code functions correctly, they hear their own heartbeat through a stethoscope, their robot completes the tasks, or their structure successfully protects the three little pigs from the big, bad wolf. Students are learning the content and able to apply it in meaningful, real-world ways. PLTW brings learning to life.
What would you change about public education if you could? Public education is an incredible asset and a very successful endeavor. However, all too frequently it has an undeserved negative connotation. Many people are judgmental of the public education system without gaining proper insight and facts before making their judgment. So many incredible things are happening within schools but too frequently the successes and highlights are not being communicated. Public education should continue to publicize and celebrate all of the wonderful accomplishments, learning and growth opportunities that are taking place. People need to hear all the exceptional things that are happening in public education.
What’s the highlight of your day? The highlight of my day is seeing the excitement, passion, and eagerness to learn each time I roll my cart into a classroom. No matter what is happening in a student’s life or the academic successes or struggles they are facing, every student is excited and eager to learn when it is time for PLTW. The students are passionate about the curriculum and enjoy the opportunity to learn through exploration. Students are eager to try new things and are not afraid to take risks. Every student finds success through the PLTW curriculum. Students have an overabundance of pride in their accomplishments and successes.
What are your favorite apps? Throughout the implementation of PLTW, many great apps and websites have been introduced to students and staff. My personal favorite is Seesaw because it allows students to showcase and share their work with family members. Students truly take ownership over their learning, it is student and teacher user-friendly and provides instant uploads for parents and guardians.
What’s the most exciting thing about your personal life right now? The most exciting aspect of my personal life is the purchase of my new home. I love learning more about the area and the opportunity to be closer to my family. I am really looking forward to spending time on the bike trail and local nature areas with the warmer weather.
What’s the most exciting thing about your professional life? The opportunity to work beyond the classroom is the most exciting aspect of my professional life. I am very eager for the opportunity to help other educators become a part of the PLTW Experience through my PLTW Master Teacher instruction. I am also excited to learn more about coding through my Tynker Blue Ribbon Educator training. Having the opportunity to teach PLTW at the Summer Learning Institute is going to help reinforce key concepts and remind students learning can be fun and engaging. Getting to co-present this fall at the PLTW National Summit will be an incredible chance to share our knowledge. My experiences working for Ann Arbor Public Schools have been warm and welcoming and this has been my best year teaching.