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Pitsco a constant for this Prudent Planner

With nearly five decades in education, VA teacher says kids are still kids

Published November 26, 2018
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WINCHESTER, VA – Teacher Byron Clemsen remains passionate as ever when talking about students and how their basic needs haven’t changed during his 47 years in education.

“Kids are kids – they’re still kids,” said Clemsen, who facilitates a materials and processes course at historic John Handley High School in Winchester, Virginia. “All you gotta do is capture their interest, show them a little bit of respect, and then intrigue them. Once you do that it’s easy.”

Another constant throughout his nearly five decades in schools has been Clemsen’s allegiance to hands-on products and projects from Pitsco Education. True to his Prudent Planner teaching type, he has been a customer for 45 of the 47 years the company has been in business, citing quality products and superior customer service as reasons to stick with Pitsco.

Nearly that entire time he has facilitated a CO2 dragster unit because the activity has proven timeless in pointing kids to possible career paths of interest. “I tell the kids, ‘You can have a career in designing cars. You’re going to use your drafting skills. We’re using some woodworking skills. In car design, you want to make it aerodynamic, so maybe you want to get into racing cars. Because we paint, maybe you’d be interested in being an auto body painter or a detailer.’”

For about five weeks each semester, Clemsen’s students use Pitsco materials to learn and experience many of the 77 technology competencies required in Virginia. In addition to dragsters, other Pitsco projects that Clemsen says never fail to engage students or deliver academic enrichment are toothpick bridges, Delta Dart airplanes, and rockets.

Clemsen discovered the toothpick bridges activity and its inherent math and science applications after a Pitsco representative suggested he try it. “I’ve never once called Pitsco and not had them treat me like I was their most important customer,” he said. “I can call anytime, and they have the answer, whatever I need. I need ideas for summer school activities, and they have something for me.”

A passionate and outspoken advocate for technology education, Clemsen has been recognized multiple times for excellence in the classroom. Just this past summer he was named the High School Teacher of the Year by the Virginia Technology and Engineering Education Association.

“We are so proud of Mr. Clemsen and the work he does with all students at John Handley High School,” said Principal Michael Dufrene. “His family nights have become a nice tradition at Handley, a time when students can show off their skills in front of their families and friends.”

“Here, it’s more engaging, so instead of going home, I’d rather stay at school and learn things. On weekends, I tell my parents I wish I were at school because I’m bored now.”

– Student in Math Expeditions lab, Yadkin Valley Regional Career Academy, Lexington, North Carolina

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