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Career-based high school courses growing in popularity

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Posted: Saturday, March 9, 2013 12:00 am

Some of Michelle Antrobus’ students have known since a young age that they wanted to work in the hospitality industry.

Specialized courses offered at Galt High School and other area campuses are helping students like these get a taste of the occupation long before they fill out their first application.

Career-Technical Education is a cornerstone of Galt Joint Union High School District’s goal of achieving its mission: Every student graduating ready for college and a career, according to Superintendent Matthew Roberts.

“We are working to ensure that students have access to a balanced educational approach that includes CTE programs,” he said. “The district has some wonderful facilities to engage students with CTE learning, and will continue to develop these offerings.”

The purpose of CTE courses is to give students the opportunity to explore a variety of careers that lead them to a career or onto college by providing hands-on learning experiences and on-the-job training, according to Antrobus, who teaches in the Foods and Nutrition program at Galt High.

CTE teachers also have the responsibility to support the students’ core classes by incorporating math, reading and writing into their courses daily.

Such programs were officially established statewide in 2005, though legislation allocated $20 million to improve CTE at both the community college and high school levels. Today, there are 15 recognized industry sectors within the state’s CTE program, from agriculture to transportation fields and beyond.

On its campuses, the Galt high school district offers classes within seven career paths.

“For a district our size, I think we offer a wide variety of classes,” said Karin Liu, director of the district’s CTE program.

Although she can’t provide details yet, she is working with the county office of education to add even more options for local CTE students.

Lodi Unified currently offers 11 CTE programs, according to Principal Bill Atterberry, who oversees the district’s CTE program housed at Lincoln Technical Academy in Lodi.

Nearly 4,500 students are enrolled in at least one CTE-related class annually.

Special opportunities

In February, Galt students celebrated the state’s CTE month by competing in an “Iron Chef”-style cook-off in the Food and Nutrition program, while others prepared and taught preschool lessons about Lunar New Year in the Child Development and Family Services program.

As if they were already working preschool teachers, the high school students created props and storyboards to go with Lunar New Year books they read to the children at City Tots Preschool last month, according to teacher Jana Din.

Two of her former child development students — Tammy Baroni and Michelle Weaver — are the directors of Kidz Come First daycare, located in the Raley’s shopping center off of Twin Cities Road in Galt.

Baroni discovered in high school that she wanted to work with children and credits the Child Development program for uncovering her passion.

“If I wouldn’t have taken Ms. Din’s class, I probably wouldn’t have been led this way,” she said.

The women have also trained several members of the next generation of child development students over the past several years, Din said.

“We believe it’s a really good program. I welcome the experience,” Baroni said, adding that the students clock in with a real timecard as if they’re getting paid, and call in sick when they’re not going to be there.

“It gives the students a look at what children are really like and lets them know whether they want to work with kids or not,” she said. “With working with children, it’s not about getting paid, because you’re not going to get paid a lot. It’s about caring for them and being a role model for them.”

Currently, two of Galt High’s ROP Careers with Children students are placed there.

Liberty Ranch High School’s ag mechanics class, another CTE course, literally turned over soil as preparations for the program’s outdoor garden grew.

Crops harvested by students could be donated to the local food closet. Likewise, the greenhouse can grow plants that teacher Mandy Gardner may use in her floral design class, another CTE program.

Antrobus said the Foods and Nutrition program has always been popular at Galt High; she’s been teaching at the school for nine years and has always taught between two and five sections of the class annually. It is among the offerings in the hospitality, tourism and recreation career path.

“One reason students take Foods and Nutrition is because they want to cook and eat,” she said. “However, they also learn about kitchen safety and sanitation, how to properly use different kitchen tools, reading a recipe and following directions, budgeting and cost of ingredients, and being a smart consumer.”

Antrobus also hosts guest speakers from the hospitality and culinary career fields.

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