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Archive for Topic: 'New Tech'

Learn How Businesses Can Partner with WDMCS New Tech

Sheila and JustinWDMCS New Tech Thought Partner & Business Liaison Justin Miller and New Tech Professional Learning Development Coach Sheila Hudson talk about project-based learning and partnerships with business on the Insight on Business the News Hour.  Listen in!

Insight on Business News Hour Interview about WDMCS New Tech


Topics: New Tech

See Project-Based Learning in Action!

This is your chance to see West Des Moines Community Schools’ New Tech program!
Tours include classroom visits, project exploration, and student/teacher interview panels.

Print the Invitation

April 24, 2017
9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Indian Hills Junior High School (grades 7-8)
9401 Indian Hills Drive
Clive, IA 50325

noon to 3:25 p.m.

Clive Learning Academy (grades K-6)
1600 73rd St.
Windsor Heights, IA 50324

May 1, 2017
9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Crestview School of Inquiry (grades K-6)
8355 Franklin Ave.
Clive, IA 50325

noon to 3:25 p.m.

Stilwell Junior High School (grades 7-8)
1601 Vine St.
West Des Moines, IA 50265

We welcome the chance to showcase what project-based learning can do to move students towards college and career readiness. If you would like to attend more than one tour, please do! If you

If you are not a district employee, please bring an official photo ID so you can check in at the schools for the tour. Thank you for helping us keep our school safe places to collaborate and innovate!



Justin Miller, New Tech Thought Partner & Business Liaison

Sheila Hudson, New Tech Professional Learning Development Coach


Topics: New Tech

Clive Learners Help Fund Celebration with Vendor Fair

Sixth-grade learners at Clive Learning Academy are hosting a vendor fair that will raise funds for a celebration on the last day of school. Students are working as entrepreneurs to create goods and services to sell at the fair on Thursday, April 6.

Find out more about their businesses at

Topics: New Tech

Meet Our Valley Southwoods Project-Based Learning Teachers

Newtech vsw teachers team FACEBOOK

The VSW team of New Tech teachers include (front row, top to bottom) Royce Mahoney, Karen Forrester, Corey Rasmussen, and Julie Carroll, (back row, back to front) Adam Kent, Josh Hohnholt, Jill George, and Sara Earp.

As project-based learning expands to Valley Southwoods Freshman High School next year, a new team of teachers will be breaking down barriers, connecting students to the community, encouraging collaboration, leveraging technology, and skillfully transferring the ownership of learning to students.

In short, they will be transforming the high school learning experience.

The team includes English teacher Julie Carroll, speech teacher Sara Earp, math teacher Karen Forrester, special education teacher Jill George, social studies Josh Hohnholt, science teacher Adam Kent, business teacher Royce Mahoney, and math teacher Corey Rasmussen.

Meet a few members of this new team of expert educators.

Julie Carroll, Language Arts

Newtech vsw teachers carroll

Teacher Julie Carroll

Julie Carroll knows what it means to earn a Valley High School diploma because she has one.

She and her husband both attended West Des Moines Community Schools growing up and their children now do as well.

In fact, it was a Valley High School teacher who inspired her to become and educator. “I was inspired by my high school English teacher, Karen Downing. I saw the impact she had on so many of her students,” Carroll said.

Carroll earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Central College and her master’s degree in Teaching English from the University of New Hampshire.

Carroll began her career as an eighth-grade language arts teacher in Rockville, Maryland, and later served as an adjunct faculty member and freshman composition instructor at the University of New Hampshire. She came back to her hometown and was hired as a Language Arts teacher at Valley Southwoods, where she has been for 13 years.

Today, Carroll continues to be inspired by those around her, including her students. She looks forward to seeing her students’ creativity further blossom through project-based learning.

Sara Earp, Speech

Newtech vsw teachers earp

Teacher Sara Earp

Interpreting a song with the right vocal styling gives meaning to a song just like the right vocal inflection can add depth to a speech.

This might be why speech teacher Sara Earp likes singer Rod Stewart. “He interprets songs with that gravelly tone,” she said. “But I also like Phoebe Snow as she has a really unique style.”

Her varying musical interests and appreciation for performance reflect this educator’s background.

Earp earned her bachelor’s degree in speech communication/theater arts and physical education handicapped and special populations from Simpson College and her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin.

She began her career teaching speech, drama, and physical education at Corwith-Wesley Community Schools. She also served as one of Iowa’s few female boys’ basketball coaches. She was a graduate assistant at the University of Wisconsin and taught Itinerant Adapted Physical Education and directed “Kids On the Block” through Heartland Area Education Agency. She was a physical education teacher at Urbandale Community Schools, where she also served as assistant drama director. Earp also worked as the pediatric residency education coordinator for Blank Children’s Hospital. She has been with the West Des Moines Community School for 17  years.

She believes project-based learning will give students the communication skills they will need for tomorrow’s workplace. It will also give them the chance to experience real applications for the work world through group communication.

“I love to see students see themselves grow into confident individuals that can take risks even if they are small and see positive results,” Earp said.

Karen Forrester, Geometry

Newtech vsw teachers forrester

Teacher Karen Forrester

Valley Southwoods Freshman High School math teacher Karen Forrester knows that tactical analysis, confident actions, and problem-solving skills are key to facing a problem—whether it is an academic or even a fencing challenge.

This former high school fencing club coach sees project-based learning as a framework for students to understand why they are learning math. In addition, it results in more engagement and investment from students.

“It provides an excellent way to challenge students to think more deeply about math, to problem solve, and to produce work that is more meaningful,” said Forrester, who is a math-certified teacher in her first year at the West Des Moines Community Schools.

Forrester began her career in education as an English teacher at Manor High School in Manor, Texas. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in English, a bachelor’s degree in history, and a master’s degree in teaching.

She will be teaching geometry next year in Valley Southwood’s New Tech school-within-a-school. She stands ready to begin this new adventure, or as they say in fencing, “En garde! Prêts? Allez!”

Jill George, Special Education Teacher

Newtech vsw teachers george

Teacher Jill George

Valley Southwoods Freshman High School Special Education Jill George knows the value of hands-on activities.

“One of my favorite things in the world is to take my Polaris 850 four wheeler and head to the muddy trails of Wisconsin or into the Mountains of Colorado for thrills and adventures one cannot have any other way,” said George, who has been teaching in the West Des Moines Community Schools for 22 years.

She knows her students also enjoy hands-on activities, as well as discussions and opportunities to think “outside the box.” This is why she believes project-based learning will benefit her students.

“I believe students who have special learning needs will flourish in a project-based learning model because it is not just pencil and paper,” said George.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in K-9 general education and K-12 special education and a master’s degree in special education from Drake University.

She began her teaching career at Orchard Place, a residential treatment facility in Des Moines. George then served as a special education teacher at Valley High School. She transferred to Valley Southwoods when it opened in 1997.

Josh Hohnholt, Geographic Cultural Studies

Newtech vsw teachers hohnholt

Teacher Josh Hohnholt

Valley Southwoods Freshman High School social studies teacher Josh Hohnholt believes in looking at the larger perspective of the world around us.

Sometimes that means climbing the world’s highest mountains for a better view.

Hohnholt’s goal is to climb the highest mountains on each continent. So far he has hiked on Mount Everest and plans to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro in the near future.

As he works on this goal, he is also sharing his experiences with his students and connecting them with people and places of the world through his Geographic Cultural Studies course.

He believes project-based learning will help deepen this work and give his students the skills they need to pursue big goals. “It will allow students to tackle large, multiple-level content, challenging them to think in new and critical ways,” said Hohnholt, who has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and social studies from Wayne State College.  

They will need these skills in an increasingly global society and workforce. Hohnholt knows this first-hand having started his teaching career as professor of Western Society and World Cultures at a school in Nanchang, China. Upon moving back to the United States, he was hired for his current position at Valley Southwoods, where he has served for four years.

Adam Kent, Science 

Newtech vsw teachers kent

Teacher Adam Kent

Students don’t believe Adam Kent rides a motorcycle, even though this self-described bow-tie-wearing, science-loving teacher rides his Suziki to work nearly every day when the weather is nice and in the homecoming parade every year.

“It should be well known by this point, but for some reason none of my students believe that I ride,” said Kent, who has taught science for six years at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School.

Kent holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in science education from Iowa State University, where he discovered he wanted to be a teacher.

“As cliche as it sounds, I wanted to join a profession that makes a meaningful difference in the world,” Kent said. “I knew I needed to find a career where I felt like my day-to-day actions mattered.” He was hired by Valley Southwoods right after graduating.

This is also why he believes in project-based learning.

“Project-based learning allows students to contextualize their learning in a more meaningful way. The projects provide an anchor for lessons on skills and content knowledge,” he explained. “I believe that the projects will help the learning stick with the students for the long term.”

It may even help them believe he’s the one riding that motorcycle.   

Royce Mahoney, Foundations of Business 

Newtech vsw teachers mahoney

Teacher Royce Mahoney

For Valley Southwoods Freshman High School business teacher Royce Mahoney, project-based learning is the perfect opportunity.

“Since I started teaching business, I have wanted to tear down the walls between my classroom and the business world outside,” said Mahoney, who will be teaching Foundations of Business next year in Valley Southwood’s New Tech school-within-a-school.

By connecting his students with the business community leaders, Mahoney will provide his students with opportunities to solve real-world problems and work on projects that improve their community. It will also give students the skills they need to be prepared for tomorrow’s careers.

Mahoney knows first-hand the importance of developing meaningful connections and professional relationships. His high school teachers and coaches made him feel like he mattered as a young man and continue to be his mentors. “I strive to create those meaningful relationships with my students,” he said.

Mahoney graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in business. He began his teaching career at Western Dubuque High School where he taught business and was an assistant football coach. He has been teaching in the West Des Moines Community Schools for four years.

Corey Rasmussen, Algebra I & Integrated Algebra

Newtech vsw teachers rasmussen

Teacher Corey Rasmussen

Corey Rasmussen was not your ideal student in high school.

“I was a rowdy kid who didn’t like to sit down,” said Rasmussen, who teaches Algebra I and Integrated Algebra at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School.

He believes project-based learning can make a difference for students like him and any student who wants to have a new and engaging learning experience.

“I love the idea of getting kids more actively engaged in their learning,” said Rasmussen. “Project-based learning is a way to include real-world relevance and get students thinking deeper and show multiple sets of skills.”

Rasmussen holds a bachelor’s degree in sports administration with a minor in business management from Simpson College and a master’s degree in teaching from Kaplan University. In addition, he is certified to teach math in grades five through 12. He student taught at Stilwell Junior High and worked for Kids West’s summer program for three years as he worked on becoming a certified teacher. Rasmussen began his teaching career as a special education associate in the Van Meter Public School District and then became an eighth-grade computer teacher in Dallas Center-Grimes. He has taught at Valley Southwoods since 2015.

Topics: New Tech

Project-Based Learning and Advanced Coursework

Parents of students in the WDMCS Extended Learning Program (ELP) may ask how project-based learning meets the needs of high-ability, high-potential, and high-achieving learners.

Research shows that project-based and problem-based learning provides natural differentiation for students because students can tailor projects to their interests and work at their own level.

Female high school students build drone at STEM school

Female New Tech high school student builds a drone.

New Tech delivers project-based learning that allows students to expand their inquiry to areas of interest and to build depth into their learning that will help them retain knowledge over time.

Project-based learning encourages a growth mindset, collaboration, and communication. In addition, it ensures students are college and career ready upon graduation.

How is this done? Teachers scaffold the learning to meet state standards while differentiating to students’ individual learning styles and ability levels. Differentiation is included in all aspects of project-based learning, including working on a project, producing a final product, benchmark expectations, and researching within the curriculum itself.

If needed, students who participate in the New Tech pathway will have opportunities to take non-project-based courses.

Need more information? See the following Frequently Asked Questions.


Will ELP students be grouped together within New Tech?

All New Tech designated teachers will receive training to meet the needs of all students in project-based learning. In addition, New Tech teachers will collaborate with ELP specialists in order to meet the needs of ELP students. When scheduling students, counselors will attempt to cluster ELP students within New Tech classes. Scheduling does depend upon students’ course requests and students’ needs.


How will students be grouped for projects within New Tech?

The use of mixed ability grouping within Project Based Learning can be an important consideration when choosing the best fit for ELP students. Often, teachers group students by ability level within New Tech, which means ELP students may often be grouped together for projects. However, sometimes New Tech group projects include students of mixed ability levels. Mixed ability grouping fits with New Tech’s emphasis on preparing students for a workforce comprised of people with varying ability levels and backgrounds.


Can New Tech students come in and out of the New Tech pathway?

Students can “passport” out of the New Tech pathway depending upon course interest and student schedule availability. Example: If a student is placed into a math course not currently offered in New Tech, the student can “passport,” or travel, to the appropriate math course outside of New Tech, then return to New Tech for other courses. Example: If an eligible student enrolls in the ELP course, the student can “passport” to the ELP class.


Can students take advanced coursework through New Tech?

Students will have access to advanced coursework within New Tech classes. Example: Students will engage in enriched projects with advanced-level standards and benchmarks within a PBL/PrBL classroom, based on their needs. Students can also take advanced coursework not offered through New Tech through a “passport” system (see above).


How will New Tech fit in with AP courses?

Students will have access to AP coursework within the New Tech pathway (VHS courses have not yet been determined). Also, students can take AP coursework through a “passport” system (see above).


How will New Tech fit in with Honors and Scholars Designations?

Eligible students decide to pursue Honors and Scholars as sophomores. The New Tech pathway for 9th grade is compatible with the preparatory coursework needed to pursue Honors and/or Scholars Designations. When scheduling courses, students will need to review the requirements for Honors and/or Scholars Designations to determine whether New Tech coursework is appropriate.


How will New Tech courses appear on transcripts?

Transcripts will reflect the core class content covered within the New Tech course. For example,  New Tech Humanities will be recorded on the transcript as Geographical Cultural Studies or Global Understanding and Language and Literature or Literature and Composition.


Topics: New Tech

Level Up! Project-Based Learning Coming to Valley Southwoods

Next year, project-based learning is expanding into Valley Southwoods Freshman High School as it introduces its first “school-within-a-school.”

New Tech Project-Based Learning

Three students build robotic arms their project-based learning class.

All incoming ninth-grade students will be part of Valley Southwoods Ninth Grade High School, but some can choose to be part of a project-based learning environment.

Project-Based Learning

Through authentic, community-based projects and problem-based experiences, students will collaborate with their peers and business and city leaders to make an impact on our community.

Teachers design complex, authentic challenges that engage students, require them to demonstrate mastery of knowledge, and foster written and oral communication skills.

All Valley Southwoods students will have access to the same curriculum, but the school-within-a-school will integrate multiple courses, like English and history or science and business, into one class.  

Technology-rich Environment

Through a technology-rich environment, teachers and students create, communicate, access information, and experience self-directed learning. Each student is assigned a personal Chromebook, and an online learning platform supports project-based learning.  

College- and Career-Ready

As they move on to Valley High School, students will graduate with the skills and knowledge that allow them to be creative and productive citizens in a global society and be college and career ready.

At Valley Southwoods Freshman High School, students will be active problem solvers and creators.

Learn More!

Learn more about project-based learning and how you can be a part of this innovative learning approach at


Topics: New Tech

Two Schools Have New Names

This year two schools in the West Des Moines Community School District have new names.

The new names reflect their new approach to instruction.

“This year, we have the opportunity to implement project-based learning using New Tech Network as our model and support system,” said Crestview Director John Villotti.

The New Tech Network educational model provides engaging and rigorous instruction through project-based learning in a collaborative culture and fully integrated technology that enable students to gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in life, college, and the careers of tomorrow.

“Each staff member had an opportunity to brainstorm new school names, and each had to have the ‘why,’ ” said Clive Learning Academy Director Drea Bocook. referring to the leadership approach of first thinking about why an organization exists, not simply what it does and how it does it.

Students and parent groups also provided input.

The new names were approved by the School Board on July 13, 2015 and each building opened its doors on the first day of school with a brand-new name.

To learn more about each school, visit For more information on our New Tech schools, visit

Topics: New Tech