Kenan Fellows Voices: Marjorie Light

plygem-01As an English teacher, my goals include teaching students techniques for reading comprehension, tools for engaging in deep discussion, and methods of clear writing. In our ninth grade curriculum, we also work with students on the college and career aspects.

Here, I teach students how to write college entrance essays, resumes, and goal setting documents. We also work on presenting, collaborating, and research. As part of this time of discovery, I have them research various career possibilities to share with their peers. One of my main focal points is STEM-related vocations.

During my internship with Ply Gem as part my Kenan fellowship, I conducted research myself – looking at the impact of temperature and humidity on product, as well as studying reflectivity and cool roofs. (Not “cool” as in “awesome”, but in the temperature sense! Although, I must say, the products Ply Gem produces are aesthetically pleasing – the stone is especially beautiful.)

Aside from all the different disciplines of engineering I encounter daily, which will help me share career options with students, the experiments I’m doing will directly impact the lesson plans I’m creating for high school science and English classes. From chemistry to earth & environmental science to reading and discussions in English, students will benefit from my work here. The chemical engineer is going to speak to the students, the plant manager will take them on a tour, and the science teachers will implement the lesson plans I create on heat islands, meteorology, and UV reactions.

Without a doubt, I have benefited from interning at Ply Gem as I gain exposure to the workings of an R&D department, as well as discovering how the various engineers from across the disciplines work cooperatively inventing and problem solving. All of this helps me assist my students in college prep, along with obtaining a greater understanding in the preparation my students need for communications skills in future careers.

How does my presence (or any teacher, for that matter) benefit the corporation? Specifically, I’ll examine my relationship with Ply Gem and, in general, corporate involvement in education.

DEDICATED RESEARCH: The current task I’m completing at the company (which I won’t describe in detail as there are proprietary issues at stake) is one that a certain department had been wanting to accomplish for quite some time. They need to examine data from a number of stakeholders and compare it to product testing results to determine which variables impact the final product. Since it is so time consuming and involved, having a Fellow enables them to accomplish this earlier than planned. Cue my entrance!

AN EMPLOYEE WHO IS TRUSTWORTHY: In our day-to-day dealings with students, teachers are relied on to keep various confidences – who is undergoing problems at home, student grades, disciplinary measures, and medical information. My company knows I understand the importance of confidentiality.

STRONG WORK ETHIC: Another attribute commonly seen amongst my colleagues is dedication and time investment. As an educator, I spend hours each evening and weekend grading, planning, and researching. Not many of my friends and family who work outside of teaching put in the hours I do, with the possible exception of the physicians I know and my brother Mark, the workaholic. We arrive early, stay late, and have trained ourselves to never use the bathroom!

HELPING TO STRENGTHEN FUTURE WORK FORCE: Corporations are benefitted when they allow educators to see into their world. As a person who has teaching as a second career, I’ve worked outside of academia, but having this experience at Ply Gem through the Kenan Fellowship was enlightening. Here I can see how my project-based learning units and use of cooperative learning groups will benefit my students for their future careers. If teachers know what local, national, and international firms do and where they want to go, we can participate in the training of our youth so society will benefit.

CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY: When I was studying education and job training in Germany, I was struck by the deep sense of responsibilities corporations felt in giving back to their society. While Germany can boast of the best economy based on their mid-level technical corporations, they also provide intensive training programs to their young people. This impacts their bottom line, but in the long-run, their society and economy are better for it. The corporations in the United States have such an opportunity for growth in this area. If more companies would open their doors to teachers and students by the way of externships and fellowships, our schools would benefit. Some of the best publicity a company can receive is when they are shown adopting a school and putting funds back into their communities.

Thanks to Ply Gem for inviting me into their company!

2016-17 Kenan Fellow Marjorie Light was supported by Ply Gem. Her mentor is Ply Gem’s Innovation Officer Lee Clark-Sellers.