Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Making Education Fun: The Mt. Lebanon Education Association

Our young son, already an avid weatherman (his weather station on our back deck is proof positive), was eager to attend a Carnegie Science Center weather camp last summer.  "Why don't you apply for a scholarship with the MLEA?" said a well-informed neighbor and this is how we came to learn about the Mt. Lebanon Education Association (MLEA), the representative for Mt. Lebanon's 436 teachers.  Lo and behold, we applied for a summer camp scholarship and our son won (as did nearly forty other kids in town) and we still have the weather vanes and rain sticks to prove it (and yes, he loved the camp).  A recent conversation with Drew Haberberger, President of the MLEA, proves, well, educational.

"Math and science are so much about figuring things out," says Haberberger, a physics teacher at Mt. Lebanon High School.  "Kids may think physics is about equations and memorization but it's very different.  Take a tree:  how does it support itself? a building?  We can almost trick kids into applying physics and these skills are transferable to anything.  They can work with any kind of data, make a claim, back it up and still apply it ten years from now even if new technology changes the data."

And what of the strengths and weaknesses of Lebo kids?  Haberberger takes his cue from Malcolm Gladwell when he discusses the sense of entitlement our children feel.  "It's a sense of entitlement both positive and negative," he says.  "I like that in class, they feel entitled to ask questions, or to seek remedies when they're confused.  Our society needs more of that.  What we don't need is 'I deserve an A because' or 'I don't need to be disciplined for talking to my friends.'  The knowledge our kids have of the world around them is also good and bad.  On the plus side, they're familiar with so much thanks to the resources available to them, many online.  But along with that comes the loss of youthful naivete and the risk of 16-year-old know-it-alls.  Even if you're on the net 24/7, you don't know everything at that age!"

Speaking to his most rewarding experiences as a teacher, Haberberger alludes to the first time he saw the proverbial light bulb go off on a kid's head, the joy in getting a kid from a D to a high B and making a connection with a parent.  "I consider myself very fortunate to have this kind of life," he says.

Haberberger is happy to be a part of the Mt. Lebanon School District and enjoys his collaboration with new superintendent Dr. Tim Steinhauer.  "I'm glad we have Tim here," he tells me.  "His heart and head are in the right place.  We need people that say what's best for the kids of Mt. Lebanon."

The MLEA scholarship program is funded solely by the teachers of the District and is designed to promote and reward a love of learning.  Information on the program, as well as the MLEA's mission, can be found here.

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