Special to Elmore Autauga News
Albert Einstein once said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
One could easily surmise that Einstein agreed with the notion that education must stimulate the imagination to generate exemplary results. Prattville Christian Academy (PCA) appears to be doing that through its Engineering Academy, and the school has been recognized for its success.
PCA’s Engineering Academy was one of only 11 schools recognized in Alabama and was named the state’s only Distinguished High School honoree for this year by the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) organization of Indianapolis, In. “Your school is one of 143 PLTW high school programs across the country to receive recognition this year,” said PLTW President and CEO Vince Bertram. “The PLTW recognition program is designed to honor districts and schools committed to increasing student access, engagement, and achievement in their PLTW programs. These districts and schools are empowering students to thrive in an evolving world and have achieved exemplary results from their PLTW programs.”
PCA was the only private school in Alabama to be honored.
The Engineering Academy has four courses in its program: Engineering Design, Principles of Engineering, Civil Engineering and Architecture and Engineering Capstone – formally called Essentials of Engineering Design.
The program began in 2013 with PCA’s Josh Smith at the helm. Smith left PCA after a couple of years but not before the school hired David Dean, who heads the academy today. “I’m a civil engineer and retired when I hit 65. I came back to Montgomery from Wyoming and began teaching and I’ve been here ever since,” Dean said. “It is a great honor and privilege to be a part of PCA’s Engineering Academy. I’ve watched it grow with students who are dedicated to achieving maximum success not just in the program, but also in life.”
Engineering Academy has grown from 13 students to more than 60 students. The program teaches critical thinking and reasoning skills as well as the opportunity for students to work with their hands in a technologically advanced setting. PCA’s Engineering Academy, along with similar programs, offers students the chance to learn more about the profession they possibly want to pursue after graduation. These courses allow students exposure to the industry while learning valuable skills that will assist them in furthering their interests beyond high school.
The program usually has a heavy male enrollment. Dean said that boys are about 90% of the program, but he is anxious to have more girls involved. “It has always been a male dominated field, but in reality, the girls I have taught actually do better than the guys. They are more patient, and I think they feel they have something to prove. It is hard to get the girls interested initially because building things has always appealed to boys,” Dean explained. “More and more girls are going into college to get an engineering degree. I think it is great. I believe it is important that we have young people understand that you can do many, many things with an engineering degree. I’m real happy that we have a program like this to offer PCA students.”
“We are thankful for the opportunities our Engineering Academy has afforded students. It is wonderful to watch them develop an interest in this area and be challenged through this coursework. Mr. Dean does a wonderful job of preparing students to think critically as they problem solve,” said Katie Furr, PCA Upper School Principal.