Top teacher: Batavia teacher connects with students through real-world applications

  • Rotolo Middle School Project Lead the Way teacher Dave Crawley talks with seventh grader Jocelynn Avila about the design for her pull toy.

      Rotolo Middle School Project Lead the Way teacher Dave Crawley talks with seventh grader Jocelynn Avila about the design for her pull toy. Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

 
By Alice Fabbre
afabbre@dailyherald.com
Posted5/10/2022 6:00 AM

Dave Crawley admits he was a bit of a clown as a student.

Today, though, he spends his days at Rotolo Middle School in Batavia sparking students' imaginations through the Project Lead the Way classes he teaches.

 
Rotolo Middle School Project Lead the Way teacher Dave Crawley tries to find ways to connect what students learn in his class to real world applications.
  Rotolo Middle School Project Lead the Way teacher Dave Crawley tries to find ways to connect what students learn in his class to real world applications. - Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

"If my teachers knew that I was a teacher, they would probably fall off their chair," said Crawley, who grew up in England and came to the United States in 1995. "It's not something they would probably expect from me.

"I'm not a typical teacher," he says. "A lot of teachers enjoyed school and tried at school. That was not me."

But it's those experiences as a student that motivate him in the classroom.

As a young student, Crawley says none of his teachers ever really showed him how what he was learning could be applied in everyday life or at a job. Today, Crawley strives to make those connections for students in his engineering classes.

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"Every day I remind students about how this can be used in a career," he said.

Rotolo Middle School seventh grader Avery Haney describes Project Lead the Way teacher Dave Crawley is "very understanding and funny."
  Rotolo Middle School seventh grader Avery Haney describes Project Lead the Way teacher Dave Crawley is "very understanding and funny." - Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

Crawley didn't set out to be a teacher.

After college, he spent a few years traveling and working odd jobs -- including a stint as a banana picker -- as he traveled through Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia. But it was his job as a scuba instructor that came to mind when he was looking for a new career.

By that time he had moved to the United States. Crawley had been working for a big tech company and worked his way through the ranks to project management, but he knew it wasn't for him. He looked back on his time as a scuba instructor and his experiences as a young student and realized teaching was his passion, and returned to school to earn a master's degree in education.

Rotolo Middle School Project Lead the Way teacher Dave Crawley helps seventh grader Harlee Duraski with the design of a pull toy students in his class are building this month.
  Rotolo Middle School Project Lead the Way teacher Dave Crawley helps seventh grader Harlee Duraski with the design of a pull toy students in his class are building this month. - Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Crawley started out as a student-teacher at Rotolo Middle School. He then worked as a substitute teacher and quickly was hired as a full-time teacher. Crawley, who also has a degree in physics from Royal Holloway, University of London, taught computer and science classes before starting up the Project Lead the Way classes at Rotolo Middle School.

His classes are popular among Rotolo students.

"Our Project Lead the Way options have expanded because of student interest, and I credit that to Dave really taking an interest in that," said Kelley Karnick, principal at Rotolo.

Students say they enjoy his classes because he allows them the opportunity for hands-on learning.

"He meets kids at their level and helps them achieve more," said Josh Bulak, assistant principal at Rotolo Middle School, adding Crawley is always on the lookout for new ideas or techniques to use in his classrooms.

Rotolo Middle School Project Lead the Way teacher Dave Crawley says he didn't always like school, but pursued a career in teaching after realizing how much he enjoyed teaching a scuba class.
  Rotolo Middle School Project Lead the Way teacher Dave Crawley says he didn't always like school, but pursued a career in teaching after realizing how much he enjoyed teaching a scuba class. - Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

Crawley's students describe him as fun, relatable and "insanely smart." They enjoy getting to solve problems for their projects together and appreciate being able to take what they've learned and put it to use.

"He allows you to get hands-on," said seventh grade student Connor Marshall as he was working on designing a pull toy for the latest class project.

Dave Crawley began his teaching career as a student teacher at Rotolo Middle School and has been teaching there ever since. He started out teaching computer and science courses, and began teaching Project Lead the Way courses seven years ago.
  Dave Crawley began his teaching career as a student teacher at Rotolo Middle School and has been teaching there ever since. He started out teaching computer and science courses, and began teaching Project Lead the Way courses seven years ago. - Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

For Crawley, classwork is about making those real-world connections and showing students how the principles he is teaching can be used on the job or in everyday life. He encourages students to continue their interest in engineering and pursue other Project Lead the Way courses in high school. He enjoys hearing about students who have pursued degrees in engineering or other science-related fields.

"That makes my day," he said.

Rotolo Middle School seventh grader Mason Yager gets some tips from teacher Dave Crawley on his project. Rotolo Principal Kelley Karnick says Crawley's enthusiasm for the Project Lead the Way courses has helped grow the program to what it is today.
  Rotolo Middle School seventh grader Mason Yager gets some tips from teacher Dave Crawley on his project. Rotolo Principal Kelley Karnick says Crawley's enthusiasm for the Project Lead the Way courses has helped grow the program to what it is today. - Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

He also strives to make those connections so students see the value in education. He tells them to ask for help, and reminds them that their teachers want to see them succeed.

"Your future self will thank you if you do the right thing in school," he says.

Tips from a great teacher

As a child, Dave Crawley did not enjoy school. As a Project Lead the Way teacher, Crawley strives to spark his students' imaginations through hands-on projects.

Here are some words of advice Crawley offers to other teachers:

• Teach something for which you have a great passion.

• Develop strong relationships with your students.

• Show kids how their future can be influenced by their education.

• Encourage your students to be curious and to be risk-takers.

• Don't be afraid to tell your kids you don't know the answer to a question, but demonstrate how you could.

• Encourage kids to think about future careers; they can always change their minds, but it will provide a focus and a meaning to their education.

• In middle school, a sense of humor is essential.

Curriculum Vitae

Name: Dave Crawley

School: Rotolo Middle School

Occupation: Project Lead the Way instructor

Residence: Geneva

Age: 56

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in Physics with Astrophysics from RHBNC, University of London, UK; two master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum development

Previous work experience: PADI scuba instructor, Indonesia; software developer/technical lead/project manager for Electronic Data Systems (EDS); computer/programming, science, algebra teacher, and PLTW instructor at Rotolo Middle School

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