Stohlmann’s success

BVNW teacher Karen Stohlmann spent her summer teaching future engineering teachers in an organization called Project Lead the Way.


Gavin Mullin

Stohlmann demonstrates the construction of a miniature solar powered car to a group of engineering students.

Instead of taking a break from teaching during her summer, math and Principles of Engineering teacher Karen Stohlmann educates future engineering teachers through Project Lead the Way, or PLTW.

Stohlmann said PLTW is a non profit, educational organization which focuses on setting the curriculum for engineering classes.

Jennifer Erbacher, the senior director of media and public relations at PLTW, said the organization offers programs for kindergarteners to 12th grade students.

“We are one organization but we offer five programs,” Erbacher said. “We offer an elementary school program, a middle school program and three high school programs.”

Erbacher said the programs provide in-depth training for its teachers.

“We also provide training so all of the teachers that teach PLTW are trained by PLTW to not only be able to teach the content but also lead a project-based and engaging project environment.”

Stohlmann started teaching future engineering teachers in 2010 and travels to two different locations every summer. Stohlmann has worked at the University of Tennessee, University of San Diego, University of South Carolina and Oklahoma State University for two week intervals during the summer.

At these universities, Stohlmann said she incorporates a “buffet” of different engineering types, including electricity, static, kinetic and manufacturing.

Sometimes spending 15 hours a day teaching and helping her students in the summer, Stohlmann said her time spent with adults helps her appreciate teaching high school students.

Every time the students were on a new topic, we had a project that allows them to apply what they’ve learned. That piece is exciting to get to see the math and science in action.”

— Karen Stohlmann

“We pretty much work 7:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night where we’re available for our students,” Stohlmann said. “But as a teacher, you have so rarely the opportunity to get preparation time for something new with people who can help you. It’s a pretty amazing experience.”

Stohlmann said she enjoys watching her adult students master certain areas of engineering and applying what they learn to new projects.

“The thing that made me really want to be more involved in PLTW is every time the students were on a new topic, we had a project that allows them to apply what they’ve learned,” Stohlmann said. “So that piece is exciting to get to see the math and science in action.”

During the school year, Stohlmann also works with high school female engineering group, the Femineers.

While Erbacher said Femineers is not directly associated with PLTW, clubs similar to Femineers are inspired by PLTW’s programs.

Sophomore and Femineers member Lindsey Crowell said the club forced her to reach out of her comfort zone.

“I’ve really learned a lot from [Femineers],” Crowell said. “There [were] a lot of projects that I normally wouldn’t do.”

Along with being a helpful and impactful teacher, Crowell also said Stohlmann is a great mentor.

“She’s really supportive, she’s really open to new ideas and she’s just a great teacher,” Crowell said.

Stohlmann also helps create the national end-of-course exam for the Principles of Engineering class and is involved in curriculum revision.

Stohlmann said she plans to continue teaching during future summers.

“I grow and experience new things and meet new people, but it still allows me to do what I love the most which is teaching in a high school classroom,” Stohlmann said. “So that’s the thing I love about stretching my wings with PLTW in summer.”