Crowther earns PA technology education honor

Penn Manor technology education teacher Nick Crowther has received the Elementary Teacher Excellence Award from the Technology and Engineering Educators Association of Pennsylvania.

He was nominated for the award by Krista Cox, principal of Eshleman Elementary School, where Crowther teaches applied engineering to students in grades one through six. He also teaches at Letort Elementary and Penn Manor High School.

Crowther said he was “humbled” to receive the award, which is given to only one elementary teacher in Pennsylvania each year.  “I see a lot of great teachers every day around me, and there are great teachers across the state, so I feel blessed to be given this honor,” he said.

The award was selected by a committee that reviewed teacher applications and observed educators in the classroom. Applicants had to demonstrate “exemplary teaching characteristics,” an “experimental and innovative attitude” and the ability to “foster curiosity and generate excitement about learning to understand and apply technology and engineering concepts and practices.”

Crowther’s award is the latest honor for Penn Manor’s applied engineering curriculum, which last year earned Program Excellence Awards from the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association and the Technology and Engineering Educators Association of Pennsylvania.

The curriculum was one of only two elementary programs in the United States to receive the national award and only the second elementary program since 1998 to receive the state honor. School officials from several districts across Pennsylvania have visited Penn Manor to observe classes.

Developed entirely by Penn Manor faculty, the curriculum engages students in hands-on math, science, engineering and technology problem-solving. Working collaboratively, teams of pupils design, build and test such devices as magnetic levitation trains and rainwater collectors. Unlike most other STEM programs, the curriculum is taught to students as early as first grade.

“We are lucky to have a district that provides this opportunity for students at a young age and even luckier to have Mr. Crowther to teach it,” said Cox.  “His expertise in the design cycle has helped students experience success through planning, trial and error and minor revisions. The process in his class is as important as the product.”

The applied engineering program was developed three years ago to fill a slot in student schedules after gym class time was scaled back because of a teacher retirement.

Crowther, who has taught at Penn Manor for 6 1/2 years, said he enjoys seeing students become excited about learning.

“The kids, especially in the lower grade levels, are so excited to share their ideas,” he said. “It really is a treat to get them to take the ideas they have in their heads and express them on paper and then share them by making a physical model.

“To see them have success and get excited about the process is the best part of my job.”

Crowther will receive his award at the TEEAP Conference in Camp Hill in November, where he will do a presentation on the applied engineering curriculum. He also will be recognized as a National Teacher of Excellence at the ITEEA Conference in March.

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Nick Crowther teaches a lesson at Eshleman ES on designing and building a cooler as officials from Windber Area School District look on.