CLINTONVILLE — Alta Jo “AJ” Longware constantly circulates around her classroom at AuSable Valley Central School, her enthusiasm transferred to her students.
Though the diminutive educator is towered over by her young scholars, it’s obvious they look up to her.
“When we did our research, what did we see?” she asks, urging them to reflect.
Her connection with students is just one of the attributes that recently earned her the New York State Technology and Engineering Educators Association's designation as Technology Teacher of the Year.
FOCUS ON SAFETY
Longware's current classroom project is a vehicle powered by a mousetrap engine. Each vehicle is unique — one creation utilizes CD disks for wheels — designed by students, who get graded on its ability to make it approximately 25 feet down the hallway outside the classroom.
Safety is a primary concern because, for many of the students, this is the first opportunity to utilize tools.
“You need pressure on that corner; otherwise it will snap,” Longware tells one student.
Then she goes to the next, “Remember to cut away from your fingers.”
She helps another student tie a knot to the mousetrap.
“Kids don’t seem to go fishing anymore,” she lamented.
'MAKES IT FUN'
Student testimony shows why Longware is being recognized.
“It’s awesome,” ninth-grader Nate Manning says of Longware's class. "The projects we do are not only fun but I have learned a lot about measurement and bio-mimicry.
"She stresses that we get everything done but makes it fun at the same time. We have to do everything — brainstorm, make sketches and then have all the measurements labeled for the final draft.”
Classmate Lucas Perez feels “it’s a real good learning environment. She makes it fun for everybody.”
Alex Knapp adds, “I really like building stuff. It’s all about creativity. She’s very helpful. She doesn’t do it for you. She makes you do it, and then you can help other people.”