Area teachers attend program focusing on career education

Saturday, June 14, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ Cherri Bertrand played with the "Spider III" on Friday. She soldered and assembled the creation in the electronics class of the Tech Prep internship that was held the past week at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center. Bertrand, a teacher at Jackson High, joined other area teachers for instruction of how to include hands-on education in classes. Bertrand said the week gave her a better understanding of the frustration students can feel when learning new skills as well as the joys of completing a project.

Teacher Sara Pylate knows a four-year college isn't for everyone.

"Students need a place they can tap into their interests, instead of being forced into a pigeonhole they feel is expected of them by society," she said.

Nationally, college enrollment is soaring to all-time highs. While teachers say this is laudable, some worry not enough skilled workers are being trained.

"A welder doesn't have to have a bachelor's degree. We don't want everyone to have a bachelor's degree. It's not needed," said Rachal Learue, a business technology teacher for the Cape Girardeau School District.

Learue took a hand at welding this week during a "Tech Prep" internship at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center. Fifty-eight middle and high school teachers from 19 districts participated in the program, which is intended to stress the importance of career education.

They are expected to apply their newly acquired technical knowledge to lessons, showing how subjects like math or science have real-world applications. The center's director, Rich Payne, hopes the teachers in turn will drum up business for him.

"Now we have 58 advocates for what we do in these schools," he said.

KIT DOYLE ~ It's all about the Hands! reads Charity Huff's t-shirts from the tech prep internship graphic arts class Friday, June 13, 2008, at the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center. Huff teaches at Central High, where she also coaches volleyball.

The internship has been held the last four years in Perryville, Mo., but this is the first year for it in Cape Girardeau. General education teachers took classes in two subjects selected from auto collision, building trades, electronics, graphic communications, welding and automotive technology. The buzz word this year is "the R-Factor," which stands for implementing "rigor, relevance and relationships" into the classroom.

Four career centers — UniTec, Arcadia Valley, Perryville and Cape Girardeau — along with Mineral Area College and the Missouri Center for Career Education sponsor the program. Participants receive a $400 stipend.

"There are a lot of teachers that don't know what goes on in technology centers," said Steve Goodman, an instructor at Lex La-Ray Technical Center in Lexington, Mo. He drove five hours to see the program in action and plans to suggest a similar internship for his region.

Pylate, an English teacher at Jackson High School, agreed that she did not understand the difficulty of career classes before the internship. Many of her students attend classes at the center.

"I have written and read all my life, but it is really different for my students. I switched shoes with them, and I was so bad at it at first. I complained, I tried to get the teachers to tell me more than they should have. I was doing all the things I get on kids for doing," she said.

On Friday, she showed off her garden stake, molded into the shape of the letter S with a plasma cutter. She also made a stepladder during the week, which required the understanding of angles.

"Now I can show my kids the stepladder and say, 'I made it. It was really hard, but I did it. So you can write this essay,'" she said.

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