Our featured teacher is Corey Turcheck of Ligonier Valley High School. As a coach, athletic director, and teacher, Corey brings a lot of insight to the table when speaking about his approach in implementing the Inventionland Insititute curriculum. His skill as an educator and ability to allow his students to take charge of their projects has fostered an environment of leadership and innovation in and outside of his classroom.
Corey’s ability to turn students into leaders, innovators, and makers has made him stand out, and we were happy to have a chance to interview him to learn more about who Corey is, his best advice as a project-based learning educator, and how he uses the Inventionland Institute curriculum to inspire and build up his students.
You were an early adopter of the Inventionland Institute curriculum, any words of wisdom you would like to pass on to educators that are new to teaching the course?
I feel strongly that the course is where education needs to be in terms of creating, inventing, making, presenting, etc. The students will embrace that the course is not full of memorization, but is full of providing a stage to create their own path. The change in educational delivery does not come without challenges. Teachers have to find creative ways to keep students on task when they are afforded the time to create and to make.
You are the Athletic Director as well as the Inventionland Institute course teacher, how do you think your experience has impacted the way you teach the class?
Because I also have Athletic Director duties, I cherish the time that I am with the students in the classroom. Athletic Director duties are overwhelming at most times and being able to interact with students in a classroom is very invigorating for me. I love seeing them progress from the first day of class until they present their product. I am also a Varsity Football Coach and that experience absolutely impacts the way that I teach the course. I feel I am better able to work with students of all abilities and move them forward toward a goal. Coaching is very universal in education and the business world. Providing feedback to students as they move through the inventing steps is very similar to coaching. It comes down to “this is what we need to work on moving forward, but, your work in this aspect is really good and is on a good path.” I use the word “we” because it is a teamwork situation in the classroom. We are working together to move our students forward.
In your experience, what benefits have you noticed from hands-on, projected-based learning?
I have noticed that students, at first, struggle a little with the concept because they are so used to what they have been doing in schools for over one hundred years. When afforded the opportunity for hands-on, projected-based learning, students embrace the concept and thrive. I notice it with each and every level of ability as well. Students that struggle with the lecture-worksheet-quiz model love the fact that they don’t have to memorize to succeed.
What is your favorite part of the curriculum to teach to your students?
I would have to say STEP 2: Research Your Idea. This is where students get the opportunity to fail and then learn how to re-direct. This also is phenomenal training for life because students will run into obstacles while producing an idea and will have to work through the issues. This step teaches students that it’s ok to fail and to learn from that failure. We must not protect our youth from failure.
What do you hope to see from your students next year?
We will have over 60 students in the fall semester and that is super exciting. When the students received their schedules near the end of the last school year, I had numerous students come up to me and tell me how excited they are to take my class. I am in constant improvement in everything that I do. One of the challenges that I face, and all teachers face, is the ability to get all group members to do an equitable amount of work for the overall group project. I hope to improve techniques that will motivate the normally unmotivated student to provide value to his or her group. I feel that this past year, I made tremendous strides in getting students to maintain a high level of group accountability, however, I plan to work even more in that aspect.
Tell us a little bit about you! Where did you go to school? Why did you want to become an educator?
I definitely followed a non-traditional path to being a teacher. I had been working in the business world for fifteen years. During that time, I began to coach youth athletics and then varsity athletics. I am now in my thirteenth year coaching varsity football at Ligonier Valley. But, within seconds of being on a field with students for the very first time in 2004, I knew that I had found the thing that came very natural to me. After several years of coaching various teams, I decided to take make a career change. I entered the Masters and teacher certification program at Saint Vincent College. I was very highly motivated to get to a point where I could work with students all day for a career. After completing the program, I was hired by Intermediate Unit # 7 and worked with some great people there. In 2015, I was very fortunate to be hired by Ligonier Valley as a BCIT Teacher, an Athletic Director, and also the Teacher/Coordinator for the Senior Internship Program. The Senior Internship Program is a phenomenal program where selected seniors get the opportunity to explore two potential careers for half of the school day. The students spend one-half day at their site placement for a full semester. Students typically go to one placement for nine weeks and another for nine weeks. We will have 16 students in the Senior Internship Program next year. So between the Entrepreneurship course and the Senior Internship Program, I am at the forefront of our future of education in our school district. It’s really, really exciting to me.