Thank you Penn College Public Relations & Marketing staff for this fond farewell!

Life is a journey, not a destination. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In December 1980, I left my job as a newspaper reporter to return to my alma mater, Williamsport Area Community College, where I accepted a position as a “communications clerk.” I did not expect it to be a life changing decision, just temporary employment while I considered my options.

Over the next 38 years, I had the privilege of communicating messages about the college I loved. I expanded my knowledge base from journalism and photography to printing, advertising, magazine publishing, web publishing and television production. I became a leader of the college information and community relations team.

I was part of a group of higher education administrators that planned for the transition of Williamsport Area Community College into Pennsylvania College of Technology, an affiliate of Penn State. I stood by my good friend and colleague Davie Jane Gilmour as she become president of the institution (and my boss).

Together with many friends and colleagues, I proudly watched our college earn a national reputation for excellence while remaining a keystone of the local community. Four years ago, the entire campus and community celebrated a memorable centennial anniversary.

All of this might sound like a dream come true, but the truth is I never even dreamed of the opportunities that blessed my career.  As I look back, I am amazed at how much can happen when you simply open your heart and mind and follow the path that appears before you.

Friend and colleague Cindy Meixel and other members of the PRM staff made sure I would always have a touch of Penn College close at hand.

This will be my final producer’s blog, as I am retiring on December 31. But, the journey continues.

In 2019, two new films will be released in the Working Class public television documentary series. You can expect an announcement regarding the premiere of Working Class: Helping & Healing early in the year. A few months later, Working Class: Moving Fast & Forward will follow.

Working Class: Helping & Healing highlights the importance of science, math, communication and hands-on experience in preparing students for success in health and human service careers.

Working Class: Moving Fast & Forward features Penn College’s nationally recognized transportation technology programs while exploring the history of transportation and advanced technology career opportunities for the future.

Like earlier films in the series, these will highlight the importance of hands-on experience in academic learning and feature interviews with experts and faculty who contribute to the advancement of education and society.

As I end my career as the executive producer of the Working Class series. I am confident that talented professionals on staff at Penn College and WVIA Public Media will continue to expand the series and share with the audience pertinent career awareness information and inspiring stories of success in education and the workplace.

I am pleased to announce today that the Working Class K-12 Art Challenges will continue in 2019, under the capable and enthusiastic leadership of Penny Lutz, director of the Gallery at Penn College. Penny appeared in the very first episode of the series Working Class: Dream & Do as moderator of a maker space roundtable. She will do a terrific job coordinating the art challenges in the future.

I would like to thank the individuals who have made this initiative possible: Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour, WVIA President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Curra (who is also my Working Class executive producing partner), WVIA’s Chief Development Officer Ron Prislupski, and Chris Leigh, Penn College’s Video Production Coordinator, who created the series with me and led the development of each episode from initial video shoots to final editing.

Saying thanks – but never goodbye – to my creative partner Chris Leigh whose patience with me and with our productions took us to the Telly Award winning level.

I offer special appreciation to each member of the Penn College faculty, each K-12 educator, and each industry expert who sat for interviews and gave their time and energies to support the Working Class productions.

I also want to thank the Public Relations and Marketing office at Penn College. Each member of the staff has contributed in one way or another to my career and to the success of the Working Class series. Special thanks goes to Phil Warner, who develops and maintains the Working Class website.

Finally thank you, the audience of educators, parents, students and supporters of education who have actively participated in the success of our Telly Award winning productions. Please continue to support the series and the people who will guide it in the future.

I am grateful for a long, satisfying career that has taken me on an unforgettable journey through life. And now … the journey continues.






Could science be lost?

Although we experience it on a daily basis, most of us do not think about science unless challenged to choose a side on a political debate, such as climate change.

Einstein famously said, “Politics is more difficult than science.” Still, most students and teachers will tell you that science is not easy.

A teacher can make a real difference by encouraging students to be curious and explore real problems that can be solved by persevering through the academic challenge that is science.

Robert N. McCauley, author of Why Religion is Natural and Science Is Not, says for most people “Science is something really that’s out there quite at a distance from them … but they do understand, first and foremost, the spinoffs in two domains of life. One is in technologies … also in healthcare … for most human beings, there’s a certain point in their life when these consequences of science turn out to be really important.”

” … for most human beings, there’s a certain point in their life when these consequences of science turn out to be really important.”

Because students – particularly those interested in advanced technology or healthcare careers – need to build a strong foundation in science early in their education, Dr. McCauley expresses concern about society’s disinterest in (and sometimes disrespect for) the subject.

“Science is surprisingly more fragile, I think, than most citizens realize,” he says.

I had the opportunity to interview Dr. McCauley – professor of philosophy, psychology, religion and anthropology at Emory University in Atlanta and founding director of Emory’s Center for Mind, Brain and Culturewhen he visited Pennsylvania College of Technology in 2017. Portions of that interview appear Working Class: Helping & Healing, a new episode in the award-winning documentary series scheduled for release this winter.

“Science is surprisingly more fragile … than most citizens realize.”

Dr. McCauley believes science “crucially depends upon a sound system of education throughout the society. Not everyone is going to be a scientist. Not everyone is going to be a technologist. But we don’t know who they are from the outset and, moreover, it seems to me in a democratic system it’s vitally important that all of our citizens gain a solid education and become literate citizens.”

In Working Class: Helping & Healing, Dr. McCauley describes how own his sixth grade teacher – with whom he reconnected just a few years ago – bestowed upon him a lifelong love of learning. I would like to share that story with you and encourage you to watch the film when it premieres this winter.

“New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2016, was the 100th birthday of Florence Karnofski … certainly throughout all of my basic public education there was no teacher who had any remotely as close an influence on me as she did. She encouraged me in all the interests that I had – in philosophical interest and mathematical interest and historical interest and literary interest – and I find it astonishing, really, when I look back on this, that quite literally it is the case that there are things that I learned in sixth grade that I can still explicitly remember that have had an impact on my professional life. That’s really a pretty extraordinary accomplishment. I actually started assembling a list of all the things that I thought Florence Karnofski was responsible for me knowing about and the list is three single-spaced pages of items that I can still, as I said, explicitly recall.”

He noted that social science research has revealed this type of encouragement has a profound effect on student success.

“The findings are that if a student has a single, even one, great teacher … they have a bounce in their income relative to people who don’t have such an experience. At an early age, in a setting where these ideas were not widespread, Florence Karnofski introduced me to the power of ideas and their abilities to change not only your life but the world.”

We all want to improve our lives through innovation. We want to live long, healthy lives. To that end, science matters, and teachers who are able to inspire student learning matter.

Useable Knowledge, a digital publication based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, encourages teachers to “portray science as acquiring skills, rather than memorizing facts. If the classroom focuses on the scientific process of discovery, more students will be engaged in the subject matter.”

We cannot lose our enthusiasm for science. Science matters. It is necessary. It is the foundation for technology, for health care, for art, music, and so much more.

Alan Lightman, a physicist, author and educator featured in a recent Working Class blog, finds the joy in science as a journey toward understanding the world and ourselves.

“Science is an intellectual journey, and to me, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey to get there,” Lightman declared in an interview published by Aegis in 2006. “It’s a way of thinking and it’s an intellectual curiosity, a desire to know how the world works, and to know what the fundamental principles of the world are, and to know our place in it.”

We all want to know our place in the world. If we can open classrooms to curiosity, students may come to believe that science and other academic subjects really do allow them to explore anything and everything that piques their interests.


Working Class is challenging K-12 students to depict the importance of science in everyday life using any art supplies and medium they choose.

Entries in the Why Science Matters Art Challenge will be accepted via email, with a digital photo (JPEG file) of the original artwork attached. A separate email is required for each entry and must include the following information: challenge title (Why Science Matters); artist’s name; teacher/parent name and email address; grade, school (or homeschool); city and state; and entry category (Student in Grades K-Six or Student in Grades Seven-12). Please email entries and questions to elambert@pct.edu

Inspiration for the art challenge comes from Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters, which is available now for online viewing on demand through PBS and WVIA Public Media, on YouTube or the Working Class website.




Reflections in a fountain at the main entrance of Pennsylvania College of Technology

“A life is a moment in season. A life is one snowfall. A life is one autumn day. A life is the delicate, rapid edge of a closing door’s shadow.” – from Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

A poet did not conceive these lyrical lines. A theoretical physicist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, who is also an acclaimed novelist and author, did.

Common misperceptions are that science and art do not mix, artists loathe math and science, and scientists are analytical, not lyrical. Alan Lightman’s work proves that theory is incorrect.

One of the first professors to receive a dual faculty appointment in science and humanities at MIT, Lightman introduced an examination of the significance, potential and limitations of major scientific and technological discoveries at Pennsylvania College of Technology several years ago.

Alan Lightman speaking at Pennsylvania College of Technology in 2014

Former colleagues Veronica Muzic and Mark Noe (both now retired) and I had the pleasure of convincing Professor Lightman to accept an invitation to visit Penn College via a telephone conversation.

As we described the college’s history, mission and emphasis on applied technology majors, he listened and formulated ideas for his inaugural presentation of “Our Home in the Material Universe.” Many of the ideas touched on during the 2014 appearance at Penn College are included in his 2018 book, In Praise of Wasting Time.

Another Lightman book published in 2018, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, prompted the The New York Times Book Review to declare, “Science needs it poets, and Alan Lightman is the perfect amalgam of scientist (an astrophysicist) and humanist (a novelist who’s also a professor of the practice of humanities at M.I.T.) …”

Lightman’s international bestseller Einstein’s Dreams is one of the most widely read books on college campuses. It is a favorite of Pennsylvania College of Technology physics professor, David S. Richards, who appears in Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters.

When I interviewed David for the Working Class documentary, he recalled, “When I was in college, I wasn’t sure exactly what path I wanted to go. I enjoyed literature and chemistry and physics. I went to a liberal arts college. I had a professor who was very dynamic and interesting, and told stories, and brought it down to earth, and made it real. He hooked me. He got me really interested in physics.”

Now David is helping Penn College students see the connection between theory and the practical applications of physics in the real world.

Physics is fundamental to Professor David S. Richards.

This level of engagement in academic study is possible when teachers help students connect theories with practical applications.

The Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters documentary is an excellent tool for teachers and parents to help students explore the connections between science and exciting careers in advanced manufacturing and engineering technologies.

Another tool to inspire students’ creativity in combination with science lessons is the Why Science Matters Art Challenge sponsored by Penn College and WVIA Public Media, producers of the Telly Award-winning Working Class documentary series.

The challenge invites student artists to depict the importance of science in everyday life and offers awards in two categories: K-6th grade and grades 7-12. Students may use any medium and supplies they choose. Deadline for entries is Dec. 1.

Entries are accepted via email, with a digital photo (jpeg file) of the original artwork attached. A separate email is required for each entry and must include the following information: challenge title (“Why Science Matters”); artist’s name; teacher/parent name and email address; grade; school (or homeschool); city and state; and entry category (Student in Grades K-Six or Student in Grades Seven-12).

A chosen artist in each category will receive a basket of books and supplies related to the art challenge. Email entries and questions to me, Elaine Lambert, executive producer of Working Class at elambert@pct.edu.

Our website http://workingclass.tv/ features images of past student art entries.

The response of students and teachers to our Working Class art challenges has been fantastic. They find – as we find in producing the series – putting forth extra effort always is rewarding.

And, according to Professor David Richards, our lives and careers mirror this fundamental law of physics.

“You always get out what you put in,” he declared. “We’re always transforming ourselves, and shifting ourselves from one thing to another. We’re still the same person. We’re always transforming ourselves, but at the same time, we’re one individual.”

Scientist. Artist. Technician. Teacher. We all have many sides that are worth exploring.


SMART Girls learn the importance of Science and Math Applications in Real-World Technologies at Pennsylvania College of Technology. More information available online at https://www.pct.edu/summer-camps/smart-girls

High demand for skilled workers, coupled with low interest among potential future employees, could make or break American industry.

Is there a chance that math and science teachers could make a difference?

Recent polls conducted by manufacturers’ groups indicate that, despite a growing demand for skilled employees, more than half of all teenagers have no interest in pursuing manufacturing careers.

Old ideas – often shared across the generations by those who remember dark, dirty factories of the past – contradict the real promise of opportunity in modern manufacturing.

A new public television documentary, Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters, helps dispel myths regarding modern manufacturing.

What skills are needed in today’s manufacturing environments?

According to research conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, “Today’s modern manufacturing workers need a variety of skills. Strong problem-solving skills can equate to the ability to autonomously adjust robots and production systems real-time. Math skills can translate into applied competencies in measurement and spatial reasoning. Technical skills have practical application in areas such as metallurgy, and technical system operations such as fluid power electrical controls. Understanding algorithms and advanced computing can translate into the ability to develop advanced technologies such as 3D-modeling and advanced robotics. Overall, as product development and manufacturing systems become more interwoven and cycle times shorten, workers need to have higher levels of STEM and analytical skills in order to influence design changes as well as production efficiency.”

Plastics engineering and technology lab at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Educators understand the challenges behind the development of problem-solving skills, math skills, technical skills, algorithms and advanced computing, higher levels of STEM and analytical skills. Industry leaders understand the consequences of unmet challenges.

In record numbers, baby boomers are vacating skilled positions – machinists, operators and technicians – that account for more than 50 percent of manufacturing jobs. What kind of prospect pool is waiting to replace the knowledge and experience the aging workers will take with them into retirement?

There is also a deeper fear that a shortage of highly specialized scientists and design engineers could slow down new product development and hinder the implementation of new manufacturing processes.

In the era when “STEM” is a buzzword in education, we need to make students more aware of how their academic classes can prepare them for future careers.

“In terms of manufacturing, it’s understanding the process. It’s all problem solving and critical thinking … and students don’t get that real experience until they’re faced with a challenge.”

Kelly B. Butzler, an associate professor of chemistry at Pennsylvania College of Technology who now works with high schools involved with the Penn College NOW dual enrollment program, remembers learning the importance of labs when she worked as a ninth grade physical science teacher at the start of her career.

Kelly B. Butzler (far right) addresses high school teachers participating in Penn College NOW dual enrollment program.

“The teachers I worked with were very, very innovative in the way they taught,” Kelly said. “They taught the lab first, and then they followed up with looking at the data. Then they followed that up with the concepts. It was a brilliant way of teaching it, because then the students are like, ‘Oh, I understand that concept because I just interacted with it. Now I have experience with that concept.’ It stuck.”

Today, Kelly teaches chemistry to college students planning to work in manufacturing, health care and engineering – all areas in which science makes an impact.

“I think the most important part of science – whether it’s physics or geology or chemistry or biology – is really understanding the thought process that goes through to solve a problem,” she explains. “In terms of manufacturing, it’s understanding the process. It’s all problem solving and critical thinking … and students don’t get that real experience until they’re faced with a challenge.”

Some students bring real-world challenges into Kelly’s chemistry classes. She recalls a day when plastics and engineering technology students began a classroom discussion about compostable plastics bottles.

Associate Professor Kelly B. Butzler teaches scientific method to prepare students to problem solve in careers.

“I love learning from my students because they’ll come in and tell me these new innovative ideas … They were talking about recyclable or compostable plastic bottles (basically water bottles that you can put in the compost). I asked them, ‘How is this working? Because if they’re biodegradable, eventually in the store they’re going to sit there and they’re going to just start dissolving themselves.’”

“They said, ‘No, it has a certain shelf life.’ They have to make sure that after a certain time they get them off the shelves, because they won’t stay there forever. That’s the kind of thing our students are actually working on – new, biodegradable plastics  and things that … instead of just going into the landfill, they’re able to either biodegrade or melt down or dissolve, and basically it’s not going to affect the environment.”

In order for students to become innovators, they must embrace the scientific method that teachers like Kelly Butzler reinforce regularly in classroom discussions.

“When my students talked to me about the biodegradable plastics, the first thing I asked them was, ‘What’s out there in the literature? What have people done? Where do they do this? What do they use to manufacture things?’ Because the literature, and what other scientists have done, helps our students try to figure out what they can do differently. That whole process of reading the literature … it’s the foundation of whatever they’re going to end up doing. Looking at it and saying, ‘Okay, where’s the chemistry behind this and how did this researcher have those chemicals interact to form a product? What if I change just one thing on it, what’s going to happen?’ That would start their hypothesis and then, of course, their experimentation on manufacturing a new product.”

Kelly confidently teaches her students the importance of learning how to think, analyze and solve problems “because you’re going to be using those skills every day.”

Penn College plastics engineering and technology students solve challenges in labs.

Making students aware of opportunities and helping them connect classroom learning to their own potential for success is important to maintain a skilled workforce for future generations.

Why Science Matters Art Challenge deadline Dec. 1

Initiatives like the Telly Award-winning Working Class public television documentary series invite students, educators and parents to learn more about 21st century career opportunities. Tune in to the latest film released in the series, Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters, and you’ll meet Kelly Butzler and other teachers who are inspiring tomorrow’s success stories today.

Working Class also is seeking young artists to take our Why Science Matters K-12 Art Challenge. Deadline for entries is Dec. 1. Follow the link for details.





MANUFACTURING: Where a Thought Becomes a Thing

Women and men gain the skills required to succeed in modern manufacturing at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

My mother worked in factories, often overnight on the third shift to allow parenting of her three children during the day.

Mom was not college educated and she would not have used the word “career” to describe her work outside of the home. Still, she found a real sense of real pride and accomplishment in doing her jobs well.

Her father, my grandfather, also worked a factory job in order to sustain a small family farm. His second-shift work as a boiler (furnace) maker provided greater financial security than growing crops and raising cattle, which he did before carrying his lunch bucket and thermos off to work every afternoon.

In my lifetime, within my own family, I saw first-hand the impact of a changing economy. First, industry overtook agriculture as the primary source of jobs in rural Pennsylvania. Later, as the service and information sectors grew, the majority of traditional manufacturing jobs – like those my mother, my grandfather and most of my family once depended upon – were lost.

Remembering my mother, Estella Jean Mahaffey Helm, 1935-2017.

It is natural for us – as individuals and as a society – to mourn our losses. The past often looks perfect in a rear view mirror. However, there comes a time when we must face forward and focus on a new vision for the future instead of staring blindly into a reflection of the past.

Since 2012, National Manufacturing Day – celebrated on the first Friday of October – has inspired a new way of thinking about American industry.

“We wanted to correct the idea that manufacturing involved repetitive, unskilled tasks that happened in dark, dirty factories … and show people what manufacturing really looks like. The fact is, today’s manufacturing jobs are highly skilled. Not only that, but they take place in some of the most exciting, innovative work environments anywhere. The thought behind Manufacturing Day was therefore: Bring the public to real manufacturing environments and let them see for themselves,” say the event founders.

Any child who ever had the opportunity to visit a parent’s workplace knows how powerful the memory of those visits can be. The chance to step into a new environment, charged with energy, purpose and productivity, offers a glimpse into the child’s own future as a productive member of the workforce.

National Manufacturing Day is Friday, Oct. 5.

I encourage you to celebrate National Manufacturing Day next Friday, Oct. 5, by learning more about what is really happening in today’s manufacturing workplace.  You can start by watching Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters. Then you can:

  • host or sponsor an event; online resources can help with planning and promotion.
  • attend an event; an online map shows location of more than 1,900 activities scheduled across the nation for this year’s event .
  • access online educational resources including “An Introduction to Teaching Guide” that describes opportunities in modern manufacturing and “The Smart MFG Comic Book,” which allows students to use an app and comic book to follow the story of superheroes who solve everyday manufacturing challenges to produce a drone.
Think factories are still dark and dirty? Think again.

A woman who has played a key role in promoting National Manufacturing Day is Jennifer McNelly, former president of The Manufacturing Institute.

Appearing in Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters, McNelly says, “I think the definition of manufacturing has changed. When I think about it … it’s where the thought becomes the thing, because manufacturing is one of those environments where you can take an idea and a concept, you can produce it and you can market it.”

McNelly and other industry leaders believe that two million jobs could go unfilled over the next decade. A lack of young, skilled individuals prepared to excel in modern, automated manufacturing environments could inhibit future industry growth.

“I think one of the greatest challenges facing us,” she says, “is whether or not we’ll continue to make things in this country … If we don’t have the right individuals, then manufacturing can’t grow.”

Newton’s third law (described in Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters) teaches us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. One employment sector falls, another rises. Industrial robots take over low-skill manufacturing functions, while creating employment opportunities for men and women skilled in automation.

“I think one of the greatest challenges facing us is whether or not we’ll continue to make things in this country … If we don’t have the right individuals, then manufacturing can’t grow.”

The world of work changes constantly, because the world never stops changing. Innovation, invention, investment and global insecurity influence economies on a large scale and in every household.

I was fortunate to come from a family of workers who were willing to change, to reimagine their work roles and retrain in order to be eligible for new employment opportunities. Their fortitude and flexibility inspired me to move confidently from one assignment to the next throughout my career.

My grandfather would find it hard to believe that I earn a living by interviewing people, typing words into a computer, and scripting films for public television. Yet, I know he would be pleased to find in my words an encouragement for the working class values that he instilled in his daughter and she instilled in me.

Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters is the latest in a series of documentaries that I, as part of a Pennsylvania College of Technology and WVIA Public Media partnership, have the opportunity to bring to public television and online audiences.

Faculty with a lifetime of real-world experience — like Richard Hendricks, who appears in Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters — guide Penn College students.

The film features interviews with secondary and postsecondary faculty who are sharing insights into the connection between science and manufacturing with students in classroom lessons and in regional and international competitions.

It is time to correct our misunderstandings about manufacturing, so that American industry can compete in an ever growing, ever changing global marketplace for many generations to come.










Vibant and Diverse by Rose Saville-Iksic, an entry in the Dream & Do Art Challenge

Calling all budding artists and scientists!

Pennsylvania College of Technology and WVIA Public Media, producers of the Working Class public television series are seeking entries in its latest K-12 art challenge, “Why Science Matters.”

Do you think of art and science as being very different subjects?

What if it is possible to explore a wide variety of the educational opportunities by combining the two?

A high school teacher from Omaha, Timothy Bogatz, believes, “When you are looking at the intersection between art and science, the connections can be endless.”

He wrote “11 Fascinating Artists Inspired by Science,” an online article with links to incredible works of art that can be used in the classroom “to show the fascinating depth offered by the world of science, and how it can inspire incredible art.”

“The greatest scientists are artists as well.” – Albert Einstein

I would like to invite the teachers and parents in our Working Class audience to share Bogatz’s article with students as a source of inspiration for the “Why Science Matters” art challenge.

I was amazed at the beauty and brilliance depicted in each featured artist’s work, from Rachel Sussman’s photographs of the oldest living things in the world and Janet Saad-Cook’s “Sun Drawings” to Jen Stark’s paper sculptures and live artwork, sculptures and installations created by Luke Jerram, whose work tests viewers’ senses and perceptions.

I can imagine that student artists viewing such incredible contemporary works might be inspired to look into their next science lesson for ideas. Likewise, a student who loves science might feel challenged to use an art form to display his/her knowledge of scientific principles.

A look at the science-inspired art might even motivate art teachers and science teachers to work together and promote a cross-curricular challenge to students interested in exploring “Why Science Matters.”

The great Albert Einstein once said, “The greatest scientists are artists as well.”

The “Why Science Matters” art challenge offers K-12 students and educators an opportunity to prove Einstein’s assertion was correct. It invites student artists to depict the importance of science in everyday life. Students may use any medium and supplies they choose.

Entry deadline is Dec. 1.

Entries are accepted via email, with a digital photo (JPEG file) of the original artwork attached. A separate email is required for each entry and must include the following information: challenge title (Why Science Matters); artist’s name; teacher/parent name and email address; grade, school (or homeschool); city and state; and entry category (Student in Grades K-6 or Student in Grades 7-12).

Deadline for entries is Dec. 1. Awards will be presented in two categories: Grades K-6 and Grades 7-12. A chosen artist in each category will receive a basket of books and supplies related to the art challenge.

Please email entries and questions to me – Elaine Lambert, executive producer of Working Class.

The Working Class website features images of student work created for other recent K-12 art challenges sponsored by the series’ producers.

Gundam Trees by Russ Gleeson, an entry in the Dream & Do Art Challenge

Inspiration for the “Why Science Matters” art challenge comes from the most recent release in the Working Class documentary series: Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters, which premiered over the summer.

Among the highlights of Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters are interviews with K-12 students and teachers at Warrior Run Middle School and Bloomsburg Area High School, participants in regional Rage in the Cage combative robot events, as well as K-12 students participating in SMART (Science & Math Applications in Real-World Technologies) Girls events at Penn College.

WVIA Public Media plans to broadcast a back-to-school marathon featuring four episodes of the Telly-Award winning Working Class series in October.

The marathon begins on Sunday, Oct. 7, when WVIA-TV will air Working Class: Dream and Do, Working Class: Build and Grow Green, Working Class: Game On! Why Math Matters and Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters.

A big Working Class thanks to WVIA Public Media for hosting the October broadcast marathon and to The Art of Education (an online resource for educators that covers topics including creativity, technology, curriculum, classroom management and instructional strategies), which published Tim Bogatz’s article “11 Fascinating Artists Inspired by Science.”

Stay tuned … and get ready to be fascinated by our student artists’ entries in the “Why Science Matters” art challenge!

Drak’a Cola by Breanna Gillow, an entry in the Build & Grow Green Recycled Art Challenge





Honest labor bears a lovely face.*

Labor too often gets a bad rap.

We tend to think of labor in terms of its definition as a verb, “to work hard, to make a great effort.” Hard work, great effort does not sound like a good time.

Labor Day is an annual reminder that “labor” and “fun” can go together. From its beginning in 1882, the holiday turned a normal workday into a celebration.

“Everyone picnicked, drank beer and listened to speeches from the union leadership …The newspapers of the day declared it a huge success and ‘a day of the people,’” said former U.S. Department of Labor historian Linda Stinson.

More than a century later, we continue the tradition of Labor Day picnics (some with legal beverages). Across our picnic tables, work may be a topic of conversation.

We may have family and friends with exciting work-related accomplishments to share, while others are jobless or stuck in jobs that seem to be going nowhere. We also may celebrate Labor Day with students, parents and educators who are in full, back-to-school mode and grateful for the long weekend to catch their breaths.

Labor Day is a good time for all of us to think about what we really think about work.

The world of work is constantly changing. The best piece of advice we  can give young people starting out today is to embrace lifelong learning, so their skills will continue to match the needs of the workforce throughout their lifetimes.

The top job skills required to match the highest levels of projected employment opportunities in the state through 2024, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, include a wide range of activities.

There will be job openings, the statistics suggest, for people who know how to order materials, supplies or equipment; who can calculate costs of goods or services, take customer orders, sell products or services, monitor inventories of products or materials, process and collect payments.

Other top skills needed, according to the report, are the ability to explain technical products and service information to customers, to compile data and prepare documentation for contracts, transactions or regulatory compliance, and to communicate with customers to resolve complaints and ensure satisfaction.

There also will be a need for specific skills to serve food industry customers (prepare and serve food) and health care patients (administering basic health care or medical treatments, recording patient medical histories, collecting biological specimens).

Skills that will be required across all fields include maintaining clean work areas and having the ability to confer with coworkers to coordinate work activities. These may seem like little things, but they make a big difference in the workplace, and they are things we can teach youngsters at home and in the classroom. These skills will last a lifetime.

Basic skills required for employment are things we can teach young people at home, in the classroom, and in part-time jobs. I always had a part-time job as a teenager and I am surprised that many teens now graduate from high school without ever working to earn a paycheck. It is the best way I know to prepare for future success in the workplace.

Yes, technology plays an important role in today’s job market. Computers and software lead the list of the Top 50 Tools and Technologies required in Pennsylvania today. Yet, on that list, there are still “manual” tools that appear along with spreadsheet, database and query, presentation, point-of-sale, inventory and project management software.

There are career opportunities for people who know how to use other “top 50” tools including screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, ladders, tape measures, power saws, hoists, hand trucks and forklifts.

Labor Day and other holidays often provide opportunities for several generations to gather and share stories and advice. Young people can benefit from the wisdom and guidance of adults who care about their futures.

If you have the chance, take time this Labor Day to encourage the youth around your picnic table to get excited about their futures. Ask them to think about what they would like to be able to write on their business cards over the next few decades. They may give some off-the-wall answers but, instead of preaching to them about why something will not work, consider how they might turn their passions into real profit in the workplace. Successful people do that every day!

How we choose our careers can be a great point of Labor Day conversation. Whether we found our dream job or not, we all know that what we do for a living influences our overall satisfaction in life.

Throughout our communities and in many of our families, people of all ages are dealing with addictions and mental health issues. Meaningful relationships and purposeful work connected to an individual’s passions can be a path toward healing.

An Ohio State University study suggests that low job satisfaction early in our careers can lead to higher levels of depression, sleep problems and excessive worry, impacting overall mental health. Knowing that even very early feelings about jobs can influence future health and wellbeing signals a need to have positive conversations about career satisfaction with teens now.

If you happen to find yourself across the picnic table from a young person this Labor Day, consider opening a dialogue about careers – not to criticize their youthful choices, but to encourage them to pursue a path that really sparks an interest. Guided by passion and a sense of purpose, they can find satisfaction in life. Your encouragement can help them get there.

Maybe you need some encouragement to find the fun in your labor as well. J.T. O’Donnell, founder and CEO of Work It Daily, says, “You don’t have to be the smartest person to succeed in finding a satisfying career, you just need to be willing to work at it every day until you get there … Those who are willing to invest time every single day in getting smarter about how they manage their careers are the ones who succeed. Studies show the average American spends over an hour a day on Facebook. Imagine what would happen if you peeled off 10 minutes of your social media time each day.”

Labor Day weekend offers you the chance to peel off a few minutes and consider how choosing the right career path can turn your labor into love.

As one of my favorite actresses from the golden age of films, Bette Davis, once said, “To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labor, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.” #LaborDay

*Quote from Thomas Dekker 17th century Elizabethan dramatist

Photos of lovely faces, courtesy of Pennsylvania College of Technology

P.S. – An Invitation for You

After Labor Day, consider visiting the Gallery at Penn College to experience Mindful – Exploring Mental Health Through Art – an exhibition that explores the impact mental illness has on society and how the arts can support healing. The exhibit will be in place through Oct. 11.

On Thursday, Sept. 6, at 5:30 p.m., the Gallery will host a lecture on “Trauma: Legacy, Biology and the Path to Healing,” which addresses family history, the human spirit and the gift of healing.

The exhibit, reception and lecture are free and open to the public.






“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success.” – Nikola Tesla

Penn College Professor Tom Ask and student Nina Hadden celebrate opening of new campus makerspace.

A new space for creation is warming hearts at Pennsylvania College of Technology, the home base for production of the Working Class public television series.

Last week, at dedication ceremonies marking the opening of The Welch Workshop: A Makerspace at Penn College, President Davie Jane Gilmour said, “When I look around this space, I envision ideas that will turn into inventions, and inventions that will turn into exciting partnerships among students who wish to dream, create and innovate.”

Penn College students Thomas P. Abernatha, Christopher D. Fox and John A. Gondy, who designed the makerspace, were the first to put their creative talents to work there.

“… I envision ideas that will turn into inventions, and inventions that will turn into exciting partnerships among students who wish to dream, create and innovate.” – Davie Jane Gilmour, Ph.D.

Gondy, a senior in residential construction technology and management, called the challenge a “definite peak” in his college experience and said, “Seeing this come to fruition makes me feel like I’ve left a legacy behind that will give others the ability to create and innovate with no bounds.”

Makerspace design presentation led by Penn College students in 2017

His “innovate with no bounds” ideas echo those of the legendary inventor Thomas Edison, who once proclaimed, “There are no rules here. We’re trying to accomplish something.”

I feel very confident that many “somethings” will be accomplished in the future in this new campus makerspace, which was a dream of faculty, administrators and former students in recent years.

During a roundtable discussion featured in the Telly Award-winning Working Class: Dream & Do documentary, Thomas Ask, professor of industrial design, said the idea for creating such a space at Penn College was “nothing radically new.”

Professor Tom Ask leads an industrial design lab, a program-specific forerunner of today’s campus makerspace.

While there were many small, program-related maker spaces around campus for years, Ask and others knew that students would benefit from one that was larger and more inclusive.

“If we had a communal one, not only do you get better facilities, but you get a community …You have to get the right kind of people doing the right kind of thing, and then it grows from relationships and it grows organically,” he said.

2017 Academic Impressions article noted that while, in past, specific academic departments managed most campus incubators, new makerspaces, including  The Garage at Northwestern University, create a kind of “Switzerland” on campus, where students and faculty in different areas of study come together to share ideas and resources.

The executive director of The Garage at Northwestern was quoted in the article as saying: “We want to help students develop an entrepreneurial toolkit, but I don’t believe you can do this in the traditional classroom. You need to create space for students to solve problems creatively, build a team, and develop and pitch surprising ideas and projects.”

Interesting side note: Penn College and Northwestern have at least two things in common – a campus makerspace and a Wildcat mascot for campus athletics!

Penn College wildcat

A makerspace should tap into the notion of “creativity and creation and wonder and play and desire to improve things … It really helps when you have a place to do it and other people to do it with,” declared Professor Ask during the Working Class roundtable discussion.

Andrea McDonough Varner, K-12 art curriculum coordinator in the Williamsport Area School District and adjunct professor at Lycoming College, who also participated in the roundtable, echoed the professor’s thoughts about building a community of doers.

“It’s about rebuilding human interactions,” she said. “When we collaborate, or we’re given the opportunity or the space to collaborate, to speak with one another, to get our hands dirty together, I think it’s a beautiful thing.”

Andrea McDonough Varner (first row center, with glasses) and Tom Ask (first from left in back row) were among the faculty appearing in Telly Award-winning Working Class: Dream & Do, which featured a discussion of campus makerspaces.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development recently recognized another K-12 educator, Southern Tioga School District’s Sarah Murray, for transforming the libraries at Blossburg and Liberty Elementary Schools into makerspaces.

“I tell my students that a makerspace gives them the opportunity to use their hands and their minds together to accomplish a project,” Murray said. “Some who walk in my room may say that they are ‘just playing,’ but it is so much more than that! … I think that makerspaces give students the opportunity to make, create, design, and play without worrying about ‘failing’ or doing something exactly perfectly or for a grade. I encourage them to try new things and always be exploring.”

“There are no rules here. We’re trying to accomplish something.” — Thomas Edison

Working Class applauds educators who encourage discovery and help students gain comfort with the concept of failing and learning from their mistakes.

“The maker movement is validating in the sense that, you know what, you can make mistakes,” according to Professor Ask. “That’s how you make these great advances in technology and other areas, or invention … by pursuing a whole new concept. What if, what if, what if?”

Pursuing the “what ifs” has a potential long-term payoff for the students, as well as for the workforce and the community.

“I think that makerspaces help instill a sense of learning and creativity in students,” declared Southern Tioga’s librarian. “My students always ask for makerspace time when they come in to the library, and I think that carrying this sense of hard work and curiosity will only help in the future in whatever type of career path that they choose to take.”

While it will be interesting to see how the introduction of makerspaces on college campuses influences the workforce of the future, it is important to remember that academics are the foundation upon which the makerspaces evolve.

“Chemistry, math, physics, are all great precursors to the Maker movement,” Professor Ask concluded. “If makers are a spontaneous response to education, that’s a wonderful thing. They’re saying, ‘I learned all this stuff. I want to try it. I don’t want to try it with a teacher there, I don’t want to try it with somebody else. I just want to take some buddies and try it, see what happens, while nobody’s watching. Show somebody, “Look what I made,” and be proud of it.’ That’s the beauty of it, strictly as an adjunct to what I call traditional education.”

Three cheers for the Penn College makerspace and the students, faculty, administrators and donors whose innovative dreams led to its creation!

“When we collaborate, or we’re given the opportunity or the space to collaborate, to speak with one another, to get our hands dirty together, I think it’s a beautiful thing.” — Andrea McDonough Varner

#makerspaces #makerspace #MakerEd






Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too. — Yogi Berra

Smiles from 2017 Little League World Series players enjoying a picnic at Pennsylvania College of Technology last year.

Today is a day we love on the campus of Pennsylvania College of Technology. It is a day of sunshine, smiles and baseball.

Tomorrow, in our hometown of Williamsport, PA, the Little League Baseball World Series begins. Later today, a parade through the downtown welcomes competing teams from around the globe to compete. Before the parade begins, Little League players, managers, umpires and officials gather for a picnic on the Penn College campus.

I believe Penn College hit a homerun when the picnic tradition began in 2009. Our modern, beautiful campus provides a perfect space for the diverse and colorful gathering of athletes from around the world. Although they speak different languages, the young players connect through their common love for baseball.

The annual series is an event that inspires a great sense of pride in the people of Williamsport, who remember its humble beginnings in 1939. Penn College and its predecessors (Williamsport Technical Institute and Williamsport Area Community College) were part of the evolution of Little League. Students and faculty helped to excavate the site of the present day stadium.

Over the years, in addition to building and remodeling support at the stadium, students and faculty also became part of teams of health care workers providing medical assistance to players and fans of the series.

In 2012, the nation’s largest educational advertising awards competition presented a gold award – its highest honor – for a “total public relations campaign” to Penn College for its connection to the Little League World Series.

At that time, I was serving as the College’s director of college information and community relations, and was asked to give a statement about the award. I said:

“The entire campus community comes out in support of this initiative. The college has partnered with Little League in various ways for more than half a century. In recent years, we have used this ‘hometown advantage’ to share a message about the importance of quality technology education with visitors around the world during the championship series. It’s an honor to have this initiative, which is so close to our hearts, selected among the nation’s top public relations campaigns.”

In that same year (2012), Penn College’s President Davie Jane Gilmour became the first woman to chair the Little League International Board of Directors. Today she remains an active member of the board and a spirited fan of the series.

When she was honored by the state Senate for her historic appointment as the first female chair in the organization’s history, Dr. Gilmour said, “Whether it’s Little League youth or college students earning a ‘degree that works,’ I spend most of my time being inspired by young people, as they are, in fact, our future.”

President Davie Jane Gilmour and Penn College administrators welcome 2017 players to campus for a picnic prior to last year’s Grand Slam parade.

Watching youngsters, from around the world, who play baseball at a championship level enjoy an afternoon on the Penn College campus is a highlight of the summer.

Each year, the Little League picnic kicks off a new academic year at Penn College by reminding us of the importance of connecting classrooms and communities. Through this partnership with Little League Baseball, we embrace a worldwide community.

The award-winning Working Class public television documentary series is another form of community outreach at Penn College. We are pleased to have you as a part of that audience, sharing our common commitment to inspiring future generations.

Little League teaches players to play fair, strive to win and always do their best. It is a great foundation upon which to build a future.

Let’s play ball!

World Series “man in the crowd” Tom Speicher interviews Penn College president and former Little League International Board of Directors chair Davie Jane Gilmour.

To experience a behind-the-scenes look at the 2018 Little League World Series, stay connected with Penn College’s own veteran broadcaster Tom Speicher. Access Tom’s “man in the crowd” interviews and experiences at:




You also will find photos from today’s picnic and parade later this week online at PCToday.


Celebrating the 2018 Telly Award win for Working Class: Game On! Why Math Matters are (left to right): Jacob R. Miller, Elaine J. Lambert, Edwin G. Owens, Lauren A. Rhodes, Christopher J. Leigh, Edward J. Almasy, and Spyke M. Krepshaw

Game on, teachers!

It is time to return to the classroom. Ready or not, soon you will be making your mark … leaving your first impressions … on another group of young minds ready (if not always willing) to be impressed.

In preparing for a new academic year at Pennsylvania College of Technology, the Working Class crew – Chris Leigh and I – hosted a gathering of Penn College faculty featured in the Working Class: Game On! Why Math Matters documentary.

We celebrated the film’s recognition among the 2018 Telly Award winning documentaries. Working Class was in good company, as another documentary earning the bronze statue was The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

We are not Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. However, Chris and I have the good fortune to make films starring real, active teachers – men and women who deserve gold stars, trophies and tons of respect for their commitment to students.

Teachers we interviewed Working Class: Game On! Why Math Matters for are DOERS. They are active in their fields of expertise – mathematics, computers and electronics. Some are industry consultants, often working on a professional basis with former students who have graduated into the workforce. They also are creative individuals who spend time outside of the classroom making art, furniture, gardens, landscapes and more. (Their recounting of summer projects, travel and accomplishments left me feeling very lazy!)

When they came together to celebrate the Telly Award win, our faculty friends spent a good bit of time talking about students and how we all (parents, teachers, counselors, school administrators) can better prepare them for success in college and careers. I was not surprised that during an event intended to honor them, these teachers wanted to talk about what really matters to them – students.

Back-to-school season provides an opportunity to show our appreciation for teachers who go boldly into classrooms where they engage with students from all walks of life, at various levels of understanding. An educator who has a sense of passion and purpose is a powerful influence on the future. Let’s give them our full support and offer encouragement whenever we can.

I hope the Working Class films and the educator resources offered on the series website help K-12 teachers connect academic requirements to practical career and life experiences in a way that will help students see the relevance of what they are learning in math, science and other classes.

A teacher excited about her/his career passes that enthusiasm onto a student who gets excited about learning. A student excited about learning sees education as more than a requirement; it is an opportunity to become the best possible version of himself/herself. A world full of the best possible versions of ourselves … well, what a world that can be!

Thank you to all the teachers in our Working Class audience who share our films, take part in our K-12 student art challenges, and link with our recommended online resources that support K-12 lesson planning. We dedicate our beautiful, bronze trophy – the 2018 Telly Award – to you.