Nearly a decade ago, Debra Crane heard about a unique national program aimed at getting high schoolers excited about engineering careers.
"I want students to be exposed to a variety of adventures in the hope that something will capture their interest and become a lifelong passion," she said.
For this, Crane has received special recognition from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation and 3M for her outstanding efforts in inspiring students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
She is one of only 10 Project Lead the Way teachers from around the country to receive this recognition.
"It is pretty cool, just to be recognized for something you do every day," said Crane, who lives in Herald. "You realize someone's noticing."
Among the prizes for the "Building the Future" award is $1,000 cash. The teacher will also travel to Texas next month to be formally recognized by the foundation.
Galt High School, too, will receive a new interactive classroom whiteboard and digital projector.
"It is a great honor to have one of our teachers recognized this way," Principal Charles Howell said. "Not only was Debra Crane honored, (but) Project Lead the Way has given us scholarship funds for students to join her at the awards conference in Texas. We are very honored to have our students honored as well."
D.J. Sinkes, Matt Hunt and Jon Rogers will accompany their teacher next month.
Crane, who founded Galt's program in 2001 with only 75 students, currently teaches introduction to engineering, digital electronics, computer integrated manufacturing, and civil engineering and architecture to all grade levels. Today, there are close to 150 students enrolled between Galt High and Liberty Ranch High schools.
She said she feels she has made a difference in getting high schoolers excited about engineering programs.
"We now have quite a few going on (in college engineering programs)," said Crane, whose husband, Roger, teaches engineering at Bear Creek High School in Stockton.
"We had several end up in the Cal Poly program, which is one of the hardest. We've even had kids who have graduated and work in engineering now. Some have come back and said they wouldn't have thought about the career had they not come through the program," said Crane.
Before becoming a teacher, Crane worked in the architecture industry for 13 years. She heard about Project Lead the Way at a teacher consortium in the early days of her 11-year career at Galt High.
At the time, a drafting teacher was lobbying for a computer lab at the school, and the school needed the reassurance that it was going to be used for more than making floor plans, she said in an earlier interview.
Nomination criteriaThe criteria for being nominated for a Building the Future Award is based on:
— High degree of involvement with the Project Lead the Way program.
— Exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom that provide a model of excellence for the profession.
— Engaging presence that inspires and motivates students.
— Exceptional instructional practices as demonstrated by increased student learning.
— Demonstrating professional leadership.
Winners are chosen by a panel of distinguished national education and business leaders, coordinated by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation, which evaulate nominations and selected the Building the Future.
Source: The Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation
Project Lead the Way seemed just the right fit. Howell is excited to continue the program's growth. In the spring, the school plans to begin a construction project to turn four classrooms into a 2,000-square-foot engineering/prototype lab. It will be paid for with a $900,000 grant from the state.
"We are looking forward to even more recognition and awards from this program as students continue to stretch the limits of engineering and design," Howell said.
By honoring outstanding educators, the "Building the Future Awards" program strives to attract, motivate and reward the achievements of talented educators.
"We believe that it is important to recognize the valuable work these educators are doing," executive director Bart Aslin said in a written statement.
"By educating today's youth, they are truly 'Building the Future' for tomorrow's leaders and a vibrant workforce. Our children need role models like Debra Crane — teachers who are dedicated to showing youth the rewards of technology and science."
Project Lead the Way, a New York-based non-profit, engages U.S. students by training middle and high school teachers to create hands-on, project-based curriculum that prepares students for academic and professional success in math and engineering fields.
The teachers, who are required to complete an intensive two-week summer training program in order to teach the courses, emphasize creativity and context-based learning so that kids don't just see "math" and "science," but instead understand how to apply math and science to real-life problems and innovations.