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High school celebrates Career & Technical Education Month

February is CTE (Career and Technical Education) Month. Several River Falls High School teachers are recognizing CTE Month. Shown are students in one of teacher Chris Silver's classes. From left are: (front) Alana Feser, Eva Mikla, Aria Woolsey, Alex Myszewski; (back) Isaiah Gray. Gretta Stark / RiverTown Multimedia. 1 / 2
Renaissance Academy student Dakota Jordan works with a CNC machine at River Falls High School. He and Renaissance teacher Kyle Stapleton are helping RFHS teacher Paul Haugland with the new CNC machines as he prepares to use them with students. Gretta Stark / RiverTown Multimedia.2 / 2

Teachers in River Falls High School's Career and Technical Education (CTE) department have been actively recognizing CTE Month (designated as February) with their students via in-class activities.

Chris Silver, a teacher in the business department, said he's having guest speakers come in to talk about different career areas.

"We're just creating an awareness, I think, of what Career and Technical Education is for students," Silver said, "through trivia games and contests, other activities that kind of generate excitement."

The CTE department includes classes in business, horticulture, animal science, fashion design, culinary arts, information technology, woodworking, carpentry and more.

Continued education in these areas could lead to careers in carpentry, architecture, civil engineering, business management, IT, customer service, engineering, food science, interior decoration, restaurant work, early childhood education, dairy management, veterinary technician, horticulture, conservation and natural resources, welding, agricultural construction, transportation, and many more.

"I feel we are the luckiest teachers in many ways," said Silver. "All of our classes revolve around real life activities."

CTE teachers said it's important to recognize CTE month.

"We need to look at career and technology for all students," said teacher Deb Ottman. "They're all going to go into a career somehow, but the skills that they're learning in your area, they can apply to any career."

She said kids learn problem solving and critical thinking skills.

"I think, just making sure kids are aware ... there are a lot of careers in the trade industry right now from construction to welding, plumbers to electricians. There's a huge demand right now and pretty good money," said teacher Ryan Pechacek.

Not everyone will want to be a doctor or lawyer or teacher, Pechacek said. He said he wants to recognize the kids who want to go into trades, and let them know there are jobs waiting for them.

Teacher Paul Haugland said his goal is to help kids learn skills they'll use later in life, whether in a career like woodworking, measuring their home for carpeting or shingles, or skills they might use in building their own home, remodeling, or just home and auto maintenance.

Haugland has taught for 37 years. He said things have changed a lot over the years. For one thing, more things are computerized, such as the high school's new CNC machines.

Transcripted classes

RFHS has taken extra steps to prepare kids for CTE careers. Many classes in the CTE department are "dual credit" and "transcripted credit" classes.That means those classes give students credit at both RFHS and Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC). The students can then take those credits to CVTC upon graduation, or transfer them to another school.

Silver said RFHS and CVTC started looking at dual credits about six years ago. The school offers various options for transcripted credits in all the subject areas the CTE Department has to offer.

Business academy

Last year, RFHS and CVTC discussed offering a full degree program for high school students.

This year, 30 freshman enrolled in the new RFHS "Business Academy."

RFHS is offering CVTC classes, taught by RFHS instructors. In the four-year program high school students take a total of 32 credits of business courses. When they graduate from RFHS, they'll not only be handed their high school diploma, but also a 2-year business degree from CVTC.

Some students will then go onto four-year universities to which they'll transfer those credits; others will go into the workforce.

Silver said Business Academy students are hard workers.

"I call them the lemonade stand students," he said. "That have interest in entrepreneurship."

These students may have worked in a family business or hold part-time jobs.

The Business Academy, Silver said, gives them an opportunity.

"We had initial concerns that the students would be ready for this type of extensive coursework," Silver said. "We found that the students actually are invested and are mature enough to really capture and use that content and discuss it, and take part in simulations ... they really exceeded our expectations in many ways."

In addition to the Business Academy, RFHS also offers students access to a construction academy and a welding academy, both offering certification through CVTC.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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