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Many teachers in the area are taking the summer months to enjoy a well-deserved vacation. Or maybe they’re teaching a session of summer school.
But some are using the time for a new type of experience – in conjunction with the Greater Ozarks Centers for Advanced Professional Studies (GO CAPS).
The GO CAPS teacher externship program is in its third year connecting area teachers with opportunities in the workplace for their students. In 2018, the program was held in two weeklong sessions. The first, held June 25-29, connected 32 teachers with 18 local businesses. A second session will take place in mid-July.
“I have a unit that aligns well with the idea of business and education partnering together,” said Jennifer Madura, an 8th grade English language arts teacher at Cherokee Middle School who participated in the first externship session. “I think the district’s philosophy of education being ‘Engaging, Relevant, and Personal’ works best when students are solving real-world problems. Exposing our students to the workforce environment early on in their lives is crucial to their success after graduation.”
The idea is simple: Show teachers the types of industries and jobs their students can access, so they’ll be more enthusiastic about sharing that information with students. The students will then be more excited about their options after completing their schooling.
“Workforce development continues to be the top issue businesses face as they look to grow and expand. And that issue isn’t going away any time soon,” said Chamber Workforce Development Coordinator Alex Greiwe. “Connecting students with new opportunities is key, and teachers can be strong advocates for career options for their students – as long as they’re aware of what the options are.”
Miller Engineering has hosted teachers for all three years of the externship program, including two during the first externship session this year. Lana Stephens, the company’s engineering technician and forensic investigator, says the externship program is a great example of the benefits when businesses and education are on the same page.
“We’ve learned that business and educators working together can pave the way for more well-prepared young graduates entering the workplace,” Stephens said. “The transition from student to employee doesn’t have to be a shock if you take the right steps.”
There are other benefits from participating as well. American National Insurance Company has also hosted teachers for all three years of the program, including five this June. Director of Employee Experience & Community Relations Leigh Anne Campbell said she would encourage other businesses to get involved.
“This is not only a time to be community minded but also provides your employees an opportunity to showcase what they do,” she said. “The employees take great pride in what they provide to the teachers.”
And that pride extends to the teachers as well, as Cherokee English teacher Jennifer Madura points out. She says that while she has been in the workforce outside the classroom, many of her colleagues have been more insulated from that experience.
“The externship is a powerful tool that can help get teachers out of their box and expose them to a world they are working so hard to prepare their students for,” she said. “It’s an excellent way to have meaningful conversations with local business leaders about what skills they are looking for in employees and to identify what is lacking so that we can help reinforce those skills.”