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Engineer Turned Educator: Teaching for all the Right Reasons

PS DuPont MIddle School Logo
By Giavana Suraci

 

From: Middletown, DE

B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Drexel University

M.Ed. Applied Technology, Wilmington University

Interests: Motorcycles, Hunting

Favorite Quote: Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Dedication, passion, a sense of purpose; educators instinctively strive to attain these qualities. Knowledge, along with the everlasting benefits it can bring, is a privilege and a right for all students. Patrick “Brooks” Twilley embodies all of that and more.  Teachers that care and possess the primal urge to enlighten and educate are the ones that truly make a difference. The 2014 Delaware STEM Educators Award recipient, Patrick “Brooks” Twilley, is one of those teachers.

Engineer turned educator, Twilley wanted to help others “pursue engineering as a tool for social improvement.” While at  P.S. duPont Middle in Wilmington, DE, his colleagues John Singer and Lincoln Hohler, wanted to start the first Integrated STEM program in the state of Delaware. Twilley and Singer successfully introduced a new, groundbreaking curriculum over the next four years. They triumphantly developed solar powered go karts for students to drive in the parking lot and sailed computer designed canoes made from cardboard in the school’s swimming pool.

“Business and community partnerships developed, Governor Markell declared our program the model by which others in the state should be measured, and we were eventually recognized by the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association as one of the Top Ten STEM programs in the country,” Twilley said.

Reeling from the amazing progress he was able to make at the middle school level, Twilley, now at Mount Pleasant High, teamed up with Concord High School’s Jordan Estock and Brandywine High’s Brian Sherrer. The trio immediately began trying to elevate their schools’ tired STEM programs.

    “We began meeting in the evenings after school in the fall of 2013, and mapped out a plan that would see curriculum developed from the ground up, old labs gutted and students lining up to get into our pathway.  What we ended up with 6 months later, was gold.  We launched our new program the only way we knew how, by hosting a STEM summit with the U.S. Secretary of Education - Arne Duncan,”  reworded Twilley.

    The team’s many projects, revamped curriculum, and redesigned learning spaces earned them the first Delaware STEM Educators Award at the high school level. They were presented with $7,500 from Ashland, Inc, which they split evenly. But, Twilley said, “the recognition through the STEM Award was more of a validation for our vision, than it was an award or prize.” The reward for him is working with talented people and making an incredible impact on his students’ futures. They are currently involved with WikiHouse FirstState, “Delaware’s only, and the world’s first, student-led chapter” of the open source building system.

“Change in government, particularly education, is slow.  The STEM Award solidified on a larger stage, that our ideas for student-centered, project-based, real-world learning was the direction that education should be heading.  Since, validation has come in the way of tours, consulting and most importantly student success, especially increased pursuit of STEM pathways by underrepresented demographics,” Twilley said.  

Their goal is to provide a “proof of concept for sustainable, locally manufactured housing for disaster relief, low-income, or reduced footprint applications.” Twilley hopes the project can aide in the displacement of refugees. His dedication to the organization has inspired students to follow his example. Twilley has proven to himself and to his kids that the benefits of doing good and loving your work outweighs whatever hindrances or doubts may compromise one’s success or satisfaction.

 

Giavana Suraci is a senior strategic communications major at Temple University.

She was born and raised in Philadelphia and plans to remain in the city. After graduation, she hopes to work for the Philadelphia Phillies in their public relations department.

 
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Friday, October 28, 2016 - 15:45