In my last column I wrote about Pleasanton's Lisa Highfill, who teaches math to fifth-graders using innovative instruction techniques.

Since that column, I attended Pleasanton's first "Education Summit" to hear Highfill and other educators speak about the innovative teaching taking place in our elementary, middle and high schools. The event took place May 8 at Amador High School and was attended by nearly 100 community leaders, including Mayor Jerry Thorne, police Chief David Spiller, school board members and representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Pleasanton, Pleasanton Partnerships in Education, Pleasanton Schools Educational Enrichment Foundation, Bay East Association of Realtors, Hacienda, Rotary and other civic groups.

Along with Highfill, instructors Tony Dennis and Ken Cuozzo spoke about the hands-on high school curriculum associated with science, technology, engineering and math available to students through Project Lead the Way, an educational nonprofit organization.

"I ask students to take things apart," said Dennis. "Sometimes I hand them a hacksaw and ask them to cut a device in half to see how it works."

Dennis and other instructors encourage students in these elective courses to solve complex engineering and related problems instead of just learning theories. In the process, students explore career options in health care and science.

Along with Project Lead the Way, Harvest Park and Pleasanton Middle Schools offer a program through the Gateway Academy known as "Gateway To Technology." This program introduces students to curricula they will continue to explore in high school.

Why all the focus on science, technology, math and engineering -- also known as STEM? According to Pleasanton Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi, evidence suggests that "the fastest-growing and highest-wage jobs in future years will be in STEM fields and all employees will need to utilize STEM skills for problem-solving in a wide range of industries."

While much of the summit reported on STEM initiatives, the event itself began with student musical and dramatic performances. Ahmadi underscored the importance of the arts as essential to ensuring that students "develop character, compassion, civility and community consciousness." Congratulations to Pleasanton schools for their first Education Summit and for providing a variety of educational opportunities for our young people.

WHO KNEW?: Last month one of my columns encouraged readers to nominate for the Juanita Haugen Community of Character Award well-deserving citizens who demonstrate a commitment to volunteerism beyond their daily job responsibilities while exhibiting high ethical and moral standards of behavior over many years in Pleasanton.

So imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from Juanita Haugen's daughter, Heather, saying I had been nominated and selected as one of this year's recipients.

How embarrassing.

Yep, along with Tom Fox, Pam Yeaw and the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, I will be honored at a luncheon Thursday at the Veterans Memorial Building at 301 Main Street in Pleasanton.

If you don't have lunch plans, come on by at 11:30 a.m. The cost is $40 to support the many scholarships and good work of the Community of Character Collaborative.

Contact Jim Ott at jimott@sbcglobal.net.