By David Boyce
At a banquet on October 29 in St. Louis, Brandon Lewis, an innovation and learning coach at Kellybrook and Shoal Creek, experienced much more than being one of five teachers in Missouri honored for their contributions to Project Lead The Way.
Lewis was happy in early October that he had been nominated by Lewis and Clark fifth grade teacher Cammy Neth for PLTW Launch Teacher of the Year. It was even a bigger surprise to Lewis when he was among a middle school teacher and three high school teachers selected PLTW Teacher of the Year.
“There are a lot of elementary teachers who teach Launch in the state of Missouri,” Lewis said. “It was very special to think that from my nomination, things they read about me and know about me, were enough to honor me.”
Beyond accepting the award, one of the things that made the evening so memorable for Lewis was meeting Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. Nixon did more than shake hands with the award winners. Nixon took time to talk with the teachers about education.
“He pulled us in a small room, and we chatted for 30 minutes,” Lewis said. “It was neat in that small setting to chat with him. He talked about education in general. He explained his passion behind it. I didn’t realize he has so many educators in his family. He showed his appreciation for what we are doing for kids.”
Lewis has a passion to teach elementary school children in innovative ways. He is a big proponent of PLTW-Launch, a program for children K-5, as a way to expose elementary students to computer science, engineering, and other sciences in a creative manner. The program empowers students to adopt a design-thinking mindset through compelling activities, projects, and problems that build upon each other and relate to the world around them. And as students engage in hands-on activities in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science, they become creative, collaborative problem solvers ready to take on any challenge.
“My favorite thing about it is it gives them opportunities to explore potential career paths that when I was growing up was never heard about until you were taking an elective your senior year in high school,” Lewis said. “The fact that kids can be exposed to computer science in kindergarten and know it is a viable pathway to a career, to me, that is a game changer.”
Lewis and Clark was the first elementary school in Liberty Public Schools to participate in PLTW Launch three years ago. The other elementary schools joined the following year. Lewis enjoys the fact that LPS allows its teachers and buildings to try innovative programs that help the learning process.
”LPS supports teachers having the freedom to be creative with how to reach their students,” Lewis said.
Lewis started teaching at LPS in the fall of 2010. He taught fifth grade students at Lewis and Clark. About a year before he arrived from California, he already knew Liberty was a great place to teach and live. He was flying back and forth every other week visiting his sister, who taught at Lillian Schumacher Elementary School.
“Her daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 18 months old,” Lewis said. “It happened in August, right before the school year was going to start. I spent that entire year traveling here every other weekend. About halfway through the year, I told my boss (in California) that, ‘you will have to find somebody to fill my spot for next year, because I am moving.’ I wanted to be here.”
Lewis also started dating a friend of his sister’s. That friend is now Lewis’ wife.
Now, seven years into his time teaching in LPS, Lewis couldn’t be happier. He started a new job this school year as an innovation and learning coach for two elementary schools. Lewis loves his new job.
“It is great to feel like I have an impact on two entire buildings of students and not just my classroom,” Lewis said. “I definitely miss the stronger relationship I can have with my kids from being with them all day long, but I am enjoying the relationship I am forming with teachers in these two buildings. That has been great.”