Meeting Them Where They Are

From the moment he began teaching at Forbes Road Career and Technical Center, George Karnbauer knew that a "one size fits all" curriculum would not work with his students. As a result, students in George's class listen to lectures, collaborate in small groups, complete individual projects, and, at times, work through content at their own pace. Such steps not only help George manage his classroom better, they ensure mastery of the material and boost students' success.

Students arrive with a variety of needs.

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Students at Forbes Road prepare for their futures.

George Karnbauer’s computer network engineering class is not part of the required high school curriculum in Monroeville, Pennsylvania; students choose to be there. The nine teenage boys who comprise his class keep their eyes on their teacher as he lectures about IP addresses. Some sit quietly with heads tilted to one side as their teacher speaks and asks guiding questions. Others ask challenging questions that George integrates into his lecture.

At Forbes Road, the career and technology center where George teaches, students receive the training and professional certifications they need to work in many fields, including information technology, automotive mechanics, childcare, and nursing. Part of a three-year Computer Networking Engineering Technology program, George’s class serves students in grades ten, eleven, and twelve from nine neighboring high schools. George, known as “Mr. K” to his students, is comfortable with this group and has over 15 years of teaching experience in the field. At the same time, he is confronted daily with the challenges of teaching students from various backgrounds.

Forbes Road Computer/Networking Engineering Program

Forbes Road Mission Statement

George assesses student readiness through informal writing and observation.

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A student receives individualized instruction.

Students come to Forbes Road with a hodgepodge of skills. Not all students are ready to dive into complex networking concepts from day one. As an experienced teacher, George anticipates this and builds in assessments like writing activities to see where students are academically when they enter his class. As the semester moves along, George observes his students, studies their backgrounds, and uses their work samples to determine how they should move forward in the curriculum.

Writing assignment guidelines

Student writing sample

After lecturing on a particular topic, George guides his students into a lab station where they will put their new knowledge into practice. Students work in groups and are assigned tasks that are appropriately challenging given their readiness level. While individuals must master the Semester One curriculum before moving on, their teacher gives one-on-one attention to students regardless of how quickly or slowly they work. Students who have mastered the material are enlisted to assist struggling students, not only to lighten their teacher’s workload, but also to encourage and develop leadership skills in academically strong students.

George incorporates students’ interests and learning styles into classroom assignments and lectures.

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Lessons have more meaning when they are relevant to students’ lives.

George strives to improve motivation and achievement in his students. He wants his students to be successful, and his military background is revealed in his concise, clear metaphors and examples. By using colorful graphics during his lectures and then incorporating a hands-on component through the accompanying lab, he ensures that learners master the necessary information.

Because students are preparing for the workforce, as rehearsed in their required internship experiences, the real-life examples George uses in lectures help students understand which types of problem-solving will be required of them “in the field.” George’s humor and rapport helps him form strong bonds with students as they continue the program.

Content for the tab Getting to Know Students

Content for the tab Individualizing Instruction

Content for the tab Engaging Students