Lifelong learning

Teachers head to work during the summer

Internships among high school students have blossomed in recent years, allowing young people to learn new skills and explore potential careers.

But this summer, two Camas teachers took on that role by participating in “externships,” short-term professional development activities that connect the classroom to business and industry.

The externships were coordinated by Derek Jacques, Camas School District career and technical education director.

“We initially had eight interested teachers, but due to a late and limited designation of the money from the state, we were only able to place two of four funded positions,” he said. “We were told about the opportunity by the state at the end of May, with the restriction to spend the money before the end of the fiscal year. It was a tough ask for teachers who had summer plans, other jobs, and our business partners in a short timeline.”

Teachers were compensated through a regional pilot program grant with the Vancouver and Battle Ground school districts.

Camas High School marketing teacher Suzie Downs was placed with Riverview Bank. Matt Chase, robotics and engineering teacher, was placed with Metroboard, a company that makes electric skateboards.

“The greatest benefit has been the relevant industry experience they are able to bring directly into the classroom for their students,” Jacques said. “This typically impacts 120 to 130 students per teacher. They are gaining current content knowledge in a given field, building lasting relationships with industry partners and have come back from this experience reinvigorated about what they are doing.”

Downs has worked at CHS since 2002 and currently teaches marketing and runs The Lunch Box, a student store. She is also an advisor to DECA, a student marketing club.

“I felt that the opportunity would be a great way to get hands-on experience with social media marketing so I could bring current and relevant curriculum in my classroom,” she said. “I wanted to understand how businesses use and monitor social media.”

Last April. Downs learned that students’ DECA written research projects would be posted on SoLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile) marketing.

“By working in industry with a business for 40 hours I knew I would gain more skills and knowledge than researching it on my own,” she said.

Downs learned how to use a variety of technology tools to create social media posts, and the importance of analytics in monitoring results.

“I was able to build a website and attach Google Analytics that we can use in the classroom to help students understand the business side of social media,” she said. “The experience was wonderful and a gained new knowledge that I can apply in my teaching. It also made me realize how much I love teaching and how important it is to be a life-long learner.”

Chase teaches robotics, math and computer science.

“I decided to do an externship to increase my knowledge of the industries that my students could eventually go into,” he said. “I want my students to have the best experience that I can possibly provide to them. This externship has helped me to better understand the electronics industry and how I can incorporate these techniques into my classroom.”

Chase was connected to Metroboard through a CHS parent, Alan Shibata, who is an engineer at HP and has mentored many students. “He knew my background, talents and what I was looking for and needed in an externship,” he said. “His mentorship was one of the main reasons I feel this externship was so successful.”

According to Chase, the experience led him to focus classroom instruction on the process of “learning new things.”

“All new endeavors involve a process of multiple failures, but through those failures you are able to learn and move the project forward and on to the next level,” he said.

Jacques noted that both Downs and Chase received high praise from their respective business partners.

“The CSD would absolutely love to participate again, if we can secure funding,” he said. “There is great interest from around the state to fund this experience again, but at this point there is no state or federal money.”

Jacques hopes to be able to offer externships to CHS teachers in the summer of 2017.

“This is a great return on investment for our students, and provides a tremendous benefit to both our teachers and business partners,” he said.