Businesses open their doors for teachers

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Educators will use externship experience as they devise lesson plans

Fourteen teachers from across Northeast Wisconsin, including four from Oconto 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+ 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, who 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 back yards.”

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

Among the 14 teacher externs were Mike O’Brien (Lena), Michele Longsine and Sierra Erdmann (Oconto Falls) and Shaun Wagner (Suring) representing Oconto County. Oconto County businesses that opened their doors to teacher externs included Nercon, Ascher’s Janitorial Services, Nicolet Plastics and Oconto Electric Cooperative. Funding for the program came from both corporate sponsors and grants, including silver sponsorships from Nercon and Oconto Electric.

“I was there the week we had all the storms and outages, which actually gave me a really unique and excellent way to see more of what they actually do,” Sierra Erdmann said of her placement at Oconto Electric Cooperative

Shaun Wagner praised his experience at Green Valley Dairy: “It was one of the most impressive experiences I’ve ever gotten to be a part of.”

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

“Research and design was very impressive, because I’ve often wondered about R&D,” said Mike O’Brien, who spent the week at Nercon.

He discussed how critical thinking and problem solving were vital skills in this area.

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.