St. Mary Catholic Schools

In keeping with its commitment to providing an outstanding Catholic education for students,
St. Mary Catholic Schools is participating in Project Lead The Way (PLTW).


There is a heightened concern within the Fox Cities business and manufacturing communities that many potential employees do not have the technical and problem-solving skills that are essential in today’s evolving workplace. SMCS researched ways to best prepare students for the future while acting as responsible members of the greater community, and found that PLTW stands alone in addressing these core objectives. Project Lead The Way is the nation’s leading provider of K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math)-based programs. Its project-based curriculum and high-quality teacher professional development, combined with an engaged network of educators and corporate partners, helps students develop the skills they need to be successful in post-secondary education and beyond.


SMCS developed a three-year implementation plan for PLTW involving SMCS principals and science teachers as well as a visionary group of community professionals in STEM fields. The plan includes the following “Launch” (elementary), “Gateway” (middle school), and “Pathways” (high school) program components:

  • In 2016-17, we incorporated two Launch modules for students in grades 4 and 5 at all three SMCS elementary campuses, as well as Gateway computer science units for grades 7 and 8.
  • In 2017-18, we added Launch modules for grades 2 and 3, and introduced a flight-based module for students in sixth grade.
    The modules for 2018-19 are:
Kindergarten Human Body
Grade 1 Animal Adaptations
Grade 2 Materials Science: Properties of Matter and The Changing Earth
Grade 3 Stability and Motion: Science & Flight, Stability and Motion: Forces & Interactions
Grade 4 Energy Collision and Energy Conversion
Grade 5 Robotics & Automation, Infection Detection
Grade 6 Flight and Space
Grade 7 Medical Detectives
Grade 8 Energy and Environment
Grades 7/8 Computer Science
    Instructors for 2018-19 are:
Kindergarten Melanie Anderson, Maryann Slavinsky, Heather Gruber, Karen Langdon
Grade 1 Mary Doland, Judy Rothe, Cathy Solowicz
Grade 2 Anne Corsmeier, Judy Rothe, Cathy Solowicz, Cari Zelinski
Grade 3 Lyndsey Bergstrom, Michael Hickey, Trisha Hoffman, Stacey Sweetalla
Grade 4 Sherry Boris, Heather Frommell, Michael Hickey, Beth Southard
Grade 5 Judy Blaney, Lauren Jares, Jeana Johnson, KarieAnn Zeinert
Grade 6 Amy Sampe
Grade 7 Emilie Boots
Grade 8 Emilie Boots
Grades 7/8 Rob Srnka
  • All SMCS K-12 students will have access to PLTW, with additional modules in engineering science and perhaps other areas being incorporated at the high school level.

“The importance of STEM education cannot be overestimated in today’s world,” stated St. Mary Catholic Schools President Helen Englebert. “We are proud of the education our knowledgeable faculty provides, and are pleased to equip them with additional tools to best prepare our students for success. Even those students who do not go on to STEM-oriented careers benefit from the 21st century skills such as critical thinking and collaboration that are integral to PLTW. Our three-year plan will enable us to implement the program effectively and thoroughly.”


To prepare for the first phase of implementation, three SMCS instructors—Jill Ahles (who is also the project leader), Rob Srnka and Karie Ann Zeinert– attended training sessions during the summer of 2016 to become PLTW-certified and returned to SMCS ready to share what they learned and led collaboration among their peers to ensure a strong foundation for the program. See the corresponding article by PLTW Lead Teacher Karie Ann Zeinert to find out more. The following summer, these three educators and additional SMCS teachers (Emilie Boots and Amy Sampe) attended training seminars to take SMCS’s Project Lead The Way to the next level.

In addition to our teachers’ commitment, a visionary group of community professionals with expertise in STEM-related fields or businesses has joined the effort. Members of this advisory committee meet several times per year to help with planning and also serve as resources, help implement innovative ideas and act as classroom consultants to support the PLTW curriculum.

Members of SMCS PLTW Advisory Group are:

Jill Ahles Pat Hickey
Emilie Boots Michelle Jungbauer
Sven Bugge Phil Kerwin
Christine Cedergren Dave Levine
Greg Cheslock Linda Meier
Helen Englebert Anne Hoernke
Molly Griffin Rob Srnka
Dick Hartl Karie Ann Zeinert

Advisory team meeting dates, agendas and minutes for the 2018-19 school year are as follows:

August 25
February 1
October 5
March 8
December 7
May 3

With Project Lead The Way, St. Mary Catholic Schools has entered
an exciting new era in preparing students for the future and equipping them to thrive and succeed.

The incorporation of PLTW in St. Mary Catholic Schools’ core curriculum is supplemented by many STEM-related co-curricular activities such as:

Math teams Grades 5-12 Compete in local math leagues and contests during school year
SMCS STEM Club Grades 8-12 Aeronautics & Flight, Electronics and VEX Robotics
FIRST Lego League Grades 3-7 Annual challenge with robotics competitions
VEX IQ Grades 2-5 Robotics competitions
Camp Invention Grades K-6 Weeklong summer camp focusing on STEM-based creativity
STEM Saturday Community Event Daylong event showcasing various STEM interests
STEM Club Open Houses Community Event STEM Club Lab open to the public
Summer day camps Grades 2-8 Rocketry, Fly-IN (The World of Flight)
STEM Club outreach Community Event Club members do demonstrations for community organizations

Click here to learn more about Project Lead The Way.