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JIS and JMS named Distinguished Schools

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Jemison Intermediate and Jemison Middle schools have been named Project Lead The Way Distinguished Schools.

The schools are two of only nine in the state to be listed as honorees for 2019-2020 school year. Project Lead the Way is an engineering program. As of this year, PLTW meets all of the criteria for science standards for Alabama.

Each school will receive a banner to be displayed.

“I’m thrilled,” Majorie Littleton said. “I think it is well deserved, and I just have to say that Kendall Jackson, principal at Jemison Middle School, feels this program is critical. It is not just about learning computer skills and stuff like that. It is about learning how to think, how to solve problems, how to work together. She has put many resources and a lot of time into this program.”

Although she is now the assistant principal at Isabella High School, Littleton was the first PLTW teacher at JMS. A position she held for two and a half years prior to accepting the IHS position.

At JMS, PLTW is offered as an elective course, but Littleton said the school has seen the majority of students choose to take it. Littleton said when she taught the class it included projects like coding and creating a website. Robotics is also one of the offerings. Courses offered to eight-grade students build on what students learned in seventh grade.

“It just shows the hard work that our teachers have done,” Rachel Mims, PLTW teacher for Jemison Intermediate, said.

She said teachers “have embraced” finding ways to incorporate PTLW projects into the subjects they teach, whether it be science or language arts and “are excited about the change.”

Students also participate in PLTW activities as a part of the STEM Lab.

JIS Principal DJ Nix said he had “profound gratitude” that both schools were recognized.

Schools submitted applications for consideration highlighting how the school had met the criteria to be honored.

Nix said there have been many at the school, school district and in the City of Jemison who made this progress for the school possible.

“This is an honor for the city of Jemison,” Nix said.

He said the school’s weather station and outdoor learning area associated with the program have been recognized previously for their innovation. He said Mims was a driving force in getting the program established.

The honor was especially meaningful to Nix in light of the high percentage of students in the free and reduced lunch program.

He said the recognition highlights that Project Lead the Way “is going to pay dividends” for students in the future.

“The three main things that we are looking for our schools that have increased student access, so overall number of students in the program; student engagement, making sure they are doing the program topnotch at the level it should be done; and achievement, just looking at the outcomes that students are having,” Nancy Blanco, director for school engagement for Alabama, said. “I know these schools have worked really hard over the past three years to increase student access, engagement and achievement … It is really exciting for them to get this.”

Blanco said it was especially meaningful because Jemison is one of the more rural areas represented in the schools honored in Alabama.

“I love seeing students engaged and the empowerment that they feel from Project Lead the Way and STEM activities,” Mims said. “Girls who participate and excel in hands-on activities that are historically male-centered. It is just amazing to see them light up and realize what they can do.”

She said the program has also helped students find a something they like about school.

Career exploration in science, technology, engineering and math is another component teachers like about PLTW.

The outdoor classroom should break ground soon at JIS. Future plans also include a greenhouse.