Project Based Learning is about the power of getting to know your students to find their strengths and interests and then go from there. When it’s real to them, the learning is real too.
— Kendall Van Valkenburg, High School English Teacher at Red Canyon Alternative High School
At PBLWorks, we love inspiring stories about the impact of Project Based Learning. So it was fantastic to be able to hear not one, but three inspirational stories at this year’s PBL Champions Awards keynote presentations at PBL World this June.
Each year, we celebrate District, School, and Individual Champions for their dedication to their students and PBL.
Please read on to learn more about our 2022 PBL Champions — and watch the video!
District PBL Champion — Broward County Public Schools (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) was selected as District PBL Champion for their commitment to better engage their middle school students by embedding equity across the curriculum through projects. In the past four years, they embarked on a large-scale effort to connect Social Emotional Learning to PBL, and created a PBL Ambassadors Program, which consists of PBLWorks-trained teachers, leaders, and coaches supporting new teachers in their PBL journey.
School PBL Champion — Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School (Queens, New York)
Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School in Queens, New York, was named the School PBL Champion for their unique approach to turning PBL into a school-wide strategy by transforming their Career Tech Education (CTE) programs through PBL. Authenticity, a key aspect of Gold Standard PBL, jumped out as a key way to improve engagement.
Individual PBL Champion — Kendall Van Valkenburg, High School English Teacher at Red Canyon Alternative High School (Gypsum, Colorado)
Kendall Van Valkenberg, High School English Teacher at Red Canyon Alternative High School in Colorado was selected as the Individual PBL Champion. Her dedication to PBL was evident in the way she used projects to transform the lives of students who have not succeeded in traditional schools. She noticed their interest in skateboarding, and created a project focused on their interest to re-engage them deeply in learning and their community. This resulted in her students’ town council dedicating funds for a new skate park. This aligns with one of our key equity levers: Knowledge of Students.
As the Individual PBL Champion, Van Valkenburg delivered a powerful keynote presentation on the final day of PBL World 2022. In her remarks, she noted, “I’m the teacher who was looking to fill two weeks of middle school learning with something that felt more like 'not school’ after too much pandemic, and too much pretending we can all go back to normal. We all needed an outlet.”
The skateboarding project Kendall created and implemented with her students was featured on PBS NewsHour. As shared by one of her students, “I’m actually doing work for my community. It’s not just a class anymore.” During her keynote address, Kendall also shared, “Project Based Learning is about the power of getting to know your students to find their strengths and interests and then go from there. When it’s real to them, the learning is real too.”
In addition to the Champions awards, PBLWorks also announced the first ever recipient of the “John Larmer Lifelong Learner Award” named after author and PBLWorks’ longtime editor-in-chief John Larmer. This year’s recipient was Rose Moe, a 6th-grade math teacher at Lincoln Middle School in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Rose was provided complimentary registration for PBL World 2022.