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MCS Students Prep for Future with "Project Lead the Way"

As educators of the next generation, Montgomery County Schools knows what kinds of graduates we hope to shape: college- and career-ready, globally competitive, community-focused and diversity-valuing. “Project Lead the Way” (PLTW) is an initiative that speaks directly to that mission.  

 PLTW is an internationally-recognized nonprofit group focused on helping students develop and apply in-demand, marketable skills through real-world challenges. It allows schools around the world to offer specialized courses in fields from engineering to computer and biomedical science. These courses help students develop technical skills while learning to solve problems, think critically and creatively, communicate and collaborate.

Classes from PLTW’s Engineering track are available at both the middle and high school levels in Montgomery County. These courses were first introduced to MCS students four years ago as part of the county’s after school program for middle school students. Since then, they have transformed into an integral part of school curriculums, and even led to the formation of a student organization that competes at the national level.

 Tracie Whitley, the Career and Technical Education teacher at West Middle School, has been a formative part of PLTW’s presence in MCS since the beginning. She says the program’s rapid expansion is a testament to how beneficial it is to MCS students:

“The skills and lessons that we teach through Project Lead the Way bring so many great eye-opening experiences to our students that they may not get otherwise. I want them to see that it’s more than just a class — it’s an opportunity to immerse themselves in a diverse field that has so much to offer in terms of potential careers or educational paths.”

Whitley teaches PLTW-based classes full-time to students at West Middle School in all three grade levels. Through these classes, students gain a wealth of knowledge and experience ranging from “engineering basics” to hands-on activities where they design and build their own structures.  

West Middle School 6th grader Luke McIntyre says his favorite part of the class is being able to practice all of the skills he is learning.

“Getting to actually make and build what we design is the best part,” he said. “I like doing that because it makes the things we are learning easier to understand. I can’t wait to keep taking these courses and learn how to build more things.”

Whitley also emphasizes that learning doesn’t stop once students leave middle school: PLTW classes are also offered at both East and West Montgomery High Schools.  

Kathy Wright, the SciViz, Drafting and Web Design teacher at West High School, has taught technology education for almost 29 years. Through PTLW, her students are able to explore a broad range of engineering topics from programming code to the social impacts of their designs. She says the in-depth knowledge and skillsets the PLTW classes offer are invaluable for students as they prepare for college and their careers.

 “My biggest goal in teaching these courses is to help my students graduate high school and either further their education or get out into the field and help someone,” Wright said. “I think that Project Lead the Way does this. It’s the most high-tech option MCS has in terms of setting students up for a future degree or career in engineering.”

If your student is interested in taking a Project Lead the Way class, please contact your school’s Guidance Center to learn more.