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PBLWorks Announces its 2022 PBL Champions

District, school, and individual champions are recognized for their commitment to high quality Project Based Learning

Novato, CA (July 27, 2022) – PBLWorks, the leading provider of professional development for Project Based Learning (PBL), has announced its 2022 PBL Champions – a program that honors schools, districts and individuals for their commitment to high quality Project Based Learning. The 2022 PBL Champions are:

  • District PBL Champion
    • Broward County Public Schools (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
  • School PBL Champion
    • Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School (Queens, New York)
  • Individual PBL Champion
    • Kendall Van Valkenburg, High School English Teacher at Red Canyon Alternative High School (Gypsum, Colorado)

“We were thrilled to see so many great nominations and learn about the great work happening in classrooms, schools, and districts across the country,” said PBLWorks CEO Bob Lenz in announcing the PBL Champions at the 2022 PBL World conference. “I want to extend my deepest appreciation and admiration for all of you who are weathering the storms this year staying committed to our students, families, and communities. From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of our team at PBLWorks.”

During the 2022 PBL World Conference, PBLWorks also announced the first ever recipient of the “John Larmer Lifetime Learner Award” named after author and PBLWorks’ longtime editor-in-chief John Larmer. This year’s recipient was Rose Moe, a 6th-grade math teacher at Lincoln Middle School in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Rose was provided complimentary registration for PBL World 2022.

About the Champions

Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) was selected as District PBL Champion for their commitment to better engage their middle school students. The Reimagining Middle Grades (RMG) initiative serves as the primary method for changing the experience of their middle school students. RMG focuses on Project Based Learning, social and emotional learning, and classes designed to support individual students’ academic and emotional needs.

“This award reflects the strategic and intentional actions we have taken over the last four years,” said Dr. Jermaine V. Fleming, Cadre Director from the Office of School Performance & Accountability at BCPS.

Through the RMG initiative, BCPS partnered with PBLWorks to train most middle school principals, academic coaches, and over 900 teachers in how to lead for and implement Gold Standard PBL with the vision of each student experiencing at least two projects per year. This partnership catalyzed a cultural and creative shift at BCPS to build and sustain PBL implementation, including:

  • Participation from district leaders at all training sessions, the introduction of PBL Learning Walks, and including more time in leadership meetings to focus on PBL;
  • Launching a PBL Ambassadors program and a PBL Coaching Network, which consists of PBLWorks trained teachers, leaders, and coaches; and
  • Developing a series of in-house professional development offerings to help onboard new staff in the foundations of PBL.

Recently, BCPS hosted its first PBL Presentations of Learning where 21 educator teams had an opportunity to share their journey with district and community leaders. “As we witness our own large-scale evidence supporting PBL’s impact on student achievement, we encourage everyone to stay the course,” said Dr. Fleming. “As long as we stay aware of the needs of our students and teachers and create community, we can all make PBL the main course and actualize the genius in every student.”

Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School in Queens, New York, was named the School PBL Champion for their unique approach to turning PBL into a school-wide strategy. While most Career Technical Education (CTE) programs have academic content pushed into their design, educators at Thomas A. Edison did the reverse and brought what was working in CTE into the academic areas. Treating students as their clients, they listened to how they described why they were engaged in their CTE courses and why they weren’t engaged in their regular academic courses. Authenticity, a key aspect of Gold Standard PBL, jumped out as a key way to improve engagement.

“I am proud to share that our Edison PBL team will only innovate and pilot concepts to be rolled out in co-teaching classes. You might be thinking “why is that?” That’s to prove to everyone, regardless of their learning profile, that all students should have the opportunity to achieve more than they think they can, more than some people think they are capable of,” said Moses Ojeda, Principal of Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School.

Additionally, Edison recently introduced a Student Designer Program where students are trained in PBL and then work with teachers to co-design projects that increase cultural responsiveness. The first student designers are now training others to carry on their work, and this work is spreading to other New York City schools.

Kendall Van Valkenburg, High School English Teacher at Red Canyon Alternative High School in Colorado, was selected as the Individual PBL Champion for her dedication to PBL as it relates to the motivation and engagement of at-risk youth. Kendall stood out in the area of Knowledge of Students, one of PBLWorks’ key equity levers. She observed how disengaged her students were, noticed their interest in skateboarding, and used that as a springboard to re-engage them in their learning and their community.

As the Individual PBL Champion, Van Valkenburg was invited to provide the morning keynote presentation on the final day of PBL World 2022. In her remarks, she noted, “I’m the teacher who was looking to fill two weeks of middle school learning with something that felt more like “not school” after too much pandemic, and too much pretending we can all go back to normal. We all needed an outlet.”

Van Valkenburg’s work was featured on PBS NewsHour where one student mentioned, “I’m actually doing work for my community. It’s not just a class anymore.” During her keynote address, Van Valkenburg said, “Project Based Learning is about the power of getting to know your students to find their strengths and interests and then go from there. When it’s real to them, the learning is real too.”

About PBLWorks

PBLWorks (the brand name of the Buck Institute for Education) believes that all students, especially Black and Brown students, should have access to quality Project Based Learning to deepen their learning and achieve success in college, career, and life. Our focus is on building the capacity of teachers to design and facilitate quality Project Based Learning, and on supporting school and system leaders in creating the conditions for these teachers to succeed with all students.

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