Our featured teacher for the month of December is Ms. Laura Wells of Burgettstown. The daughter of a shop teacher, Ms. Wells fell in love with hands-on learning at an early age, and it shows. Nowadays, she’s inspiring the next generation of inventors and innovators while teaching the Inventionland Institute’s Innovation Course. Her students are creative superstars and one group designed a product that won the high school division of last year’s regional invention contest.
So, your students won the high school regional invention contest last school year. Do any of the students talk about defending the title and bringing home another win?
Yes, definitely! My group that won the school competition last May is looking forward to coming to regionals and bringing back the title again. I’m sure I’ll have another crew eager to compete when we complete the fall semester.
Why do you think the Innovation Course resonates with students?
Some students just want to be able to DO things. They enjoy a class that is more student-centered and allows them to take charge of their own learning. Something that causes me concern, however, are the students who come into this class and are discouraged by the fact that they are responsible for their own learning. I’ve had some otherwise gifted students who don’t want to put in the effort required to get started in this course. They would rather be in classes where content is set by teachers and they complete those specified “concrete” tasks. This course requires abstract, and intuitive higher-order thinking which some students thrive on and others are not adventurous enough to find out that they’d thrive on it, too.
What is the best part about teaching this course?
Watching students as they discover and learn how to design their products using computer application…Their reactions when they see what they’ve designed on the computer come to life in front of their eyes on the 3D printer or laser cutter… And watching them as they present their ideas. They always manage to surprise me.
You have been teaching the course for a few semesters now. Are you ever surprised by the inventions that your students are able to come up with?
I think any teacher, myself included, would tell you they’re surprised by the ideas their students come up with. And since ideas are what this course is all about, I guess I’m surprised even more often. I love when students get really into their idea. Some things are practical, some are downright crazy creative and others are so practically simple that it’s amazing no one’s thought of doing it that way before.
Let’s pretend you are a student taking the course. What would you invent?
I’ve come up with lots of ideas since I’ve been teaching this course. I probably think of something every day, but so many seem to slip my mind before I can record them. As for the ones I do remember? Well, I think you’d have to sign a confidentiality agreement for me to tell you that. 😉
Tell us about yourself! Where did you go to college? What did you major in? Why did you want to become an educator?
I am originally from the North Hills and am a graduate of North Hills High School. I attended California University of Pennsylvania where I received my Bachelors of Science in Education in the field of Technology Education. I wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a little girl. I always enjoyed working with my hands. My dad was a shop teacher and I went to take your daughter to work day with him when I was in 9th grade. I had so much fun and knew for sure I wanted to become a shop teacher. I took a lot of shop classes in high school and was really inspired by my high school shop teachers as well.