Aerospace award reinforces STEM credentials of new MTHS assistant principal

By Doug Petrowski

After being named the Washington State Air Force Association Teacher of the Year for 2011, MTHS Assistant Prinicipal Peter Schurke has received further recognition from the group, placing third in its 2012 National Aerospace Teacher of the Year awards.

The Air Force Association is a national group of business, military and education professionals that promote, support and advocate for aerospace fields and related education. The association presents annual awards locally, statewide and nationally to educators in the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and aerospace.

Schurke won the 2011 and 2012 awards for his work while at Seattle’s Ingraham High School, where he taught for 11 years. Beyond his classroom teaching at Ingraham, Schurke helped establish the school’s Aerospace Sciences Academy and created a rocketry club program that regularly competes in the national Team America Rocketry Challenge.

Schurke assumed the assistant principal post at Mountlake Terrace High School at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. With his expertise in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) studies, one of his first administrative duties was to help develop the school’s STEM Magnet High School program that opened in September.

“I was incredibly fortunate to be in the right place at the right time,” said Schurke. “The school was already doing many of the elements of STEM studies. We just brought them all together,” Schurke explained.

MTHS Principal Greg Schwab expressed gratitude for having the award-winning Schurke at the school, and for seeing him receive national recognition. “I think this is a very positive thing, and adds to our budding reputation as a STEM school to have someone like Peter Schurke with strong credentials and who is recognized for his background and experience in STEM,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have him working with our staff and students as we build our STEM program.”

Schurke is transparent in his desire to bring the experiences and programs developed at Ingraham to MTHS’ STEM School, including a rocketry program. “We will be taking what I have done at Ingraham and attempting to replicate it here at Terrace,” he said. Schurke hopes to have two student teams assembled for the rocketry challenge in an effort to qualify for the national finals in Washington D.C.

For the 85 students in the STEM Magnet High School, aerospace engineering could be more than just an after-school club; it will be one of three options of study during their junior and senior years. All students in the STEM school take a common core of classes in grades 9-10, but then choose between aerospace engineering, biotechnology and engineering, or computer science and engineering as their advanced program of study in grades 11-12.

Although no longer directly in the classroom, Schurke is pleased to be in his role as assistant principal of MTHS and one of the STEM School administrators. “I am so happy to be here and to be working with such a great team,” he said.

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