Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Like a lot of her classmates, 11-year-old Laney Staples has a second job.

“Their first job is to be a good student,” said Propel McKeesport teacher Keith Smetak, 41, of Irwin standing nearby. “Laney, here, is our tour guide.”

She tutors, too. Some children are bankers, others part of a tech-savvy “geek squad.” These positions offer Smetak’s middle-schoolers “a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA News

Last Tuesday, five local high school students engaged the community in a panel discussion focused on keeping classrooms relevant to students' everyday lives and their future goals. Recorded live at the Community Broadcast Center, panelists presented a critical reflection of the standards modern students are held to and how they sometimes overshadow learning. 90.5 WESA's Life of Learning series focuses on learning and education activities, opportunities and challenges in the Greater Pittsburgh area. 

Amma Ababio, for instance, voices concern about where -- and how -- schools and teachers place the emphasis on learning:

"So much of school is because of GPA, because you want to get into a good college for your GPA, because of the SAT test, and it detracts from learning. It detracts from actually learning material. It becomes 'How well can you memorize something in forty-five minutes? How well can you memorize something in two months?'" -- Amma Ababio

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Dream. Discover. Design.

That’s the motto of Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy in Oakland, a public magnet school focused on the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Essentially, the entire middle and high school shines a spotlight on innovation.

“The whole idea is tinkering, so we play, we tinker, we fail, we figure out what we did wrong, and we work again,” said Ann Gollapudi, who teaches physics and computer science at SciTech.