By Emile Creel
When talking with Kenny Langley about his passions, a drive for the good of all soon becomes clear over advancing one individual or group, or winning a competition.
That mantra guides his work as a project manager at the RCU and in the community.
“In my previous job, I was working with professional development for teachers in a limited scope. When the opportunity opened up at the RCU, I was excited to take it,” said Langley.
When Langley began working for the unit three years ago, his biggest task was to guide a rewrite of the state’s science standards. For the project, science teachers from across Mississippi came together in groups to align state standards with exemplary state models and national research in order to decide what should be taught to K-12 students
“Through that work, we’ve built experts in the teachers outside of the RCU and [Mississippi Department of Education], and they’ve taken that information to their classrooms,” said Langley. “I’m honored to have worked with so many of our state’s best educators on one project.”
With the science standards revisions on the way to the classroom, Langley turned his attention to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, and advanced manufacturing education. Most of his new efforts focus on curriculum development for secondary in the STEM and advanced manufacturing fields, and he networks with industry experts and K-12 teachers in this development. During the curriculum-development process, Langley’s hope is that discussions and research will create knowledgeable teachers and industry professionals who, in turn, will prepare students for college and the workforce.
Langley is particularly proud to have organized a statewide Maker education group, which aligns with a national movement that encourages creative problem solving by doing. Maker projects usually stem from recent, exciting technological advancements and can be found in school libraries, CTE centers, academic classrooms, at colleges and universities, and in the community. Through the initiative, individuals from schools and industries join together to share ideas and encourage innovation.
“I believe this could be the first statewide Maker education group in the nation. I appreciate being allowed to pursue interests and develop opportunities to excel and connect to careers,” said Langley. “I find it exhilarating to help others meet people who are experts in their fields and expand educational opportunities in Mississippi.”
Langley’s drive for connecting others reaches outside of his work at the RCU as well. When his daughter was a student at Sudduth Elementary School, he joined the Community Health Task Force. The group has worked on several projects, including adding a fence to the school that allows students to play outside when unloading from buses and cars in the morning instead of going straight to a classroom to wait for their day to begin. Additionally, the group is working with Mississippi State University’s (MSU’s) landscape architecture department to update the elementary school’s playground layout and equipment.
“One of the things I’ve heard from teachers is that parents do great things while they have students in the school. Since they will eventually move on to the next school with their children, it’s hard to have long-term plans,” said Langley. “I’m trying to stay committed with Sudduth, even though my daughter is older now, so that we can see these plans through for the next group of students.
“The first step to creatively solving a problem is communication,” he added. “I love meeting people and connecting them, so they can help each other.”