Three years ago, the Career and Technical Education [CTE] courses at Pocahontas County High School implemented a new program called Simulated Workplace. With that change, the classes became businesses, and the students became employees.
Each CTE program – business education, welding, agriculture, culinary arts, carpentry and forestry – developed a business name, designed a logo and uniform and created a new way to learn.
For business education, the change included implementing new programs and offering new classes with a technology and digital art focus.
“I have what I call the traditional business and then the technology business,” teacher Cammy Kesterson said. “So in the mornings, I do computer aps with accounting and intro to business and then in the afternoon, I do another computer aps with digital imaging and webpage, and that seems to be the route that we’re going.”
While there are students interested in the old stand-by classes where they learn the ins and outs of Microsoft Office, the new classes, which have students creating in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and DreamWeaver, have drawn more attention.
“It’s a lot,” Kesterson said. “The kids love digital imaging because we teach Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and then with webpage, we’re learning how to use DreamWeaver, and the kids learn how to use html. It’s pretty in-depth honestly, and I had to teach myself because I had never had that, so I learned with the kids.”
When the changes were first made, the students and Kesterson worked together to create a business name and logo, which was done with a friendly competition.
“I had a competition with my kids and I said, ‘okay, what do you want to name our class? What’s our logo going to look like?’” she said. “The winning person was Rosyln McCarty. She’s the one that came up with our name and design. Our business is called Pixel Design Company and our logo is a flower that is made out of hands, so the petals are hand prints.”
While the business education classes don’t require heavy machinery like many of the other CTE classes, Kesteron’s room had to be outfitted as if it was a business, complete with eye washing station, a first aid kit and fire extinguisher. The classroom also has to follow MSDS [Material Safety Data Sheets].
As far as the products, the students are learning how to design and create items that would be made by a career digital artist or graphic designer including brochures, business cards and websites.
“We’ll do raffle tickets for the Lions Club, or we’ll do business cards, or we’ll do brochures,” Kesterson said. “We have also been asked to try to help the animal shelter in town make a website.”
While the students are creating items for free, they are learning the worth of their products as part of their lessons.
“I do career exploration with them, so they know – if I went into a job and I was performing digital imaging duties, like I was a webpage designer or if I became a wedding photographer, this is the kind of money I can earn from having that particular skill,” Kesterson said.
Along with the new style of classes, Kesterson is also in charge of the yearbook, so the students are using their new skills to design the 2018-2019 yearbook.
For yearbook, the students have to edit photos, write copy, design the pages and sell and design advertisements. This is the only project they are creating that will earn money for the school.
“They have been super excited,” Kesterson said. “They want to do a Snapchat-themed yearbook. The cover is going to look like a cellphone, so the front cover is going to have the little Snapchat tile with the tools along the side, and the back is going to look like your camera lens. They have ideas for every section, and they really got into it.”
Working on the yearbook, the students are learning how to balance their creativity with what the customer wants.
“When we’re creating the business ads, you’ve got to tell the students, ‘you have some creative rein but you are producing a product for a customer and what you want is for it to be its best quality,’” Kesterson said. “That’s like if you’re in an actual job. Good enough isn’t good enough because you want your best product out there. That means proofreading and that means taking your time. That means putting some effort into it. You can’t just slap something out there and say, ‘good enough.’”
With the changes, Kesterson said she is both happy and sad – sad to see interest in classes like accounting [her favorite to teach] diminish and happy to see the students excited about the new digital classes.
Another aspect of CTE classes is becoming a completer. If a students takes and passes four classes in one CTE course, they are a completer. As a completer, students can enter the workforce directly out of high school or choose to continue their education in college.
Students can also be certified in parts of the classes. For instance, in business education, students can be certified in Microsoft Power- Point if they finish the required work.
“Most of my kids that I have are completers, I’m going to say at least ninety-five percent of them go on to college,” Kesterson said. “Last year I had nine kids certified. I had seven certify in Microsoft PowerPoint and two in Microsoft Word. My goal this year is to get some in all the subjects.”
Kesterson admits it is harder for students to become completers in business education only because there is not a clear progress. The classes are not classified as business 1, business 2 and so on. Instead, the students are moving from one program to the next in each class.
Despite the difficulty in completing, Kesterson has had a lot of success cases and hears from former students often about how taking business education classes prepared them for their careers or put them on the right career path.
“I have had a remarkable experience with that,” she said. “Miranda Wilfong was one of my kids. When I got her, she was so quiet, but she had an eye for photography and design. She did the Smoke Signals yearbook and she was like, ‘Ms. K, if it wasn’t for your class, I don’t know where I would be.’ She graduated, went to Shepherd [University] and is working for a design firm in the Martinsburg area. Because of what she learned in my classes, she found a passion for something she really enjoys. She sent me Facebook messages saying, ‘I’m so thankful because of your class, I found my place in the world.’”
Wilfong is just one of many students who found their niche in the world thanks to the business education classes.
Kesterson said that is the case with all the CTE programs.
While business classes help set students on the path toward college, completers in the other CTE classes are being prepared for the workforce.
“In welding, carpentry, culinary, forestry – they get these skills,” Kesterson said, “they get really good paying jobs doing carpentry, welding and forestry without ever having to step foot in a college classroom, because we do offer really good skill sets.”
First in a series about the Career and Technical Education programs at Pocahontas County High School.