Teachers shadow area business workers

5 county educators learn about local job opportunities

Contributed Photo Kim Strayer, a Bonduel School District special education teacher, discusses entrepreneurship with Tricia Ascher, owner of Ascher’s Janitorial Service.

Contributed Photo Kelly Carlson, an educator at Bowler School District, learns about restocking the freezers at Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats.

Fourteen teachers from across Northeast Wisconsin, including five from Shawano County, had the opportunity to participate in a unique experience this summer through the CESA 8 Career Academy Teacher Externship program.

The program places classroom teachers into area businesses for three- to five-day paid externship experiences during summer break. The idea for the program stemmed from the state Department of Public Instruction’s initiative PI26, which calls for all Wisconsin school districts to embed academic and career planning within grades 6-12 classrooms starting this fall.

“Having stepped out of the classroom myself after 20-plus years, I know that classroom teachers really know their content areas, but they might not have a good idea about the types of employment opportunities available in their local areas,” said Lynn Aprill, director of the Center on Education for Economic Development at CESA 8, which created and managed the program. “The CATE program allows teachers to step through the doors of local businesses, shadowing people from many departments and really learning about the job opportunities available in our own backyards.”

The externship teachers will use that information to create lesson plans that they’ll use in their classrooms this fall.

Among the 14 teacher externs were Brenda Hoffman (Gresham), Kelly Carlson (Bowler), Kim Strayer and Lisa Sorlie (Bonduel) and Melissa Braun (Shawano). Menominee Tribal Enterprises, Nueske’s Meats, Cooperative Resources International, Green Valley Dairy and Top Brass opened their doors to the teachers.

Funding for the program came from corporate sponsors and grants. For Shawano and Menominee counties, funding was received from Nueske’s Meats and Menominee Tribal Enterprises, as well as through a grant from the Bleser Family Foundation, Inc.

Along with occupational information, teachers also gained information on the importance of employability skills in the workplace.

“It was a packed three days,” said Braun, an agriculture teacher who was placed at CRI. “It was really insightful to see all of the different safety aspects. Even though it’s an agricultural-based company, there’s so much more they need than just those ag skills.”

“I just asked a ton of questions,” said Kim Strayer, a special education teacher who was placed at Ascher’s Janitorial Service in Abrams. She learned that attention to detail and interviewing skills need to be emphasized with students.

After a successful first year, CESA 8 is planning to expand the program next summer.

“We’d like to find a placement for at least one teacher from each of our 27 school districts in CESA 8,” Aprill said.