Classroom skills blend with on-the-job learning

Washougal CTE students earn school credit for jobs, plan to open ‘breakfast bistro’ at Excelsior

A new Washougal High School program is helping students earn school credits while connecting the things they’ve learned in their career and technical education classes with real-world work skills.

Fedrico Pineada, Jackson Lynch and Emma Beaudoin are three of the 20 Washougal High students taking part in the school’s new worksite learning program through their jobs at Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Northwest Supported Living.

“Worksite learning is an amazing partnership between our students, their employer, and us as educators,” said Margaret Rice, the Washougal School District’s career and technical education (CTE) director. “We have the opportunity to bring focused learning to the workplace and support our business partners in teaching our students, who are their employees, what they need to know to be successful at their job.”

The worksite learning is one of several CTE programs offered at Washougal High during the 2021-22 school year, Rice said.

“(This year has been) fantastic,” she said, adding that Washougal has nearly 265 students taking CTE classes right now. “We’re so glad to have students back and doing everything we can, like everyone in the district is, to keep the doors open and kids here and engaged. We do have a lot of really amazing learning going on — my amazing teaching staff are rolling with it. We’re having a great year. There’s lots of great things going on.”

Beaudoin, a junior, joined the program in October 2021, as an office assistant at Northwest Supported Living, an assisted living and senior care facility in Vancouver.

“I actually started working there during remote learning,” Beaudoin said. “The worksite learning program helped me keep that going. It is great to be able to earn money and get credit toward graduation. I’d be lost without work. I have learned communication skills, customer service and data entry. I think I learned these things more quickly with one-on-one time from my manager who is there to personally help me. My office skills keep moving forward.”

The worksite learning students earn school credit while working at a job that connects to a CTE class they are taking or have taken, and fits into their class schedule.

“Whether it is specific industry skills or essential 21st-century skills which transfer across all industries, on-the-job training is a great way to learn,” Rice said. “For our students, they not only benefit from the focused learning and job skills related to future career goals, but they can earn high school and college credit at the same time. It’s a win-win-win all the way around.”

Seventeen local businesses are currently employing the Washougal worksite students, said Kathy Scobba, Washougal High’s career specialist and worksite learning coordinator.

“These employers help their student employees create a strong work foundation, so they are valuable, contributing workers, not only for this job, but for their future career,” Scobba said. “We find that supervisors have been a positive influence in the development of the student’s work skills while making sure they are doing well in school,” she added. “The connection to the school reinforces the importance of graduating from high school, their training and opportunities to further meaningful job skills.”

Breakfast bistro coming to Excelsior

Rice said she also is excited about the debut of her department’s latest project, a student-operated breakfast bistro at the Excelsior building.

The Panther Cafe is set to open on Tuesday, Feb. 22, serving meals to Washougal High students and staff members before they head to their first class of the day.

“Students will be learning the business of running a caf? and will also have an opportunity to tap into their culinary skills as well, so that will be an exciting launch and an exciting program,” Rice said. “The students that are involved in that are very excited. They’re helping to develop what this is going to look like and what it’s going to entail. They’re also learning about the regulations and challenges that go with the federal nutrition program, the rules and things like that. Our social media marketing classes will be working with the students that are working in the Panther Caf? to create a social media launch as well.”

The district’s culinary students also plan to open a Shoug Shack food truck as soon as they can work through permitting issues, Rice said. The school district announced the food truck idea in 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic snarled the permitting process.

“It’s taken quite a lot longer than we had thought it would take because of some of the challenges that the government has taken on with the pandemic,” Rice said. “We are actively working to get that permitting done with both (the Washington state Department of Labor & Industries) and the Clark County health department, so once we can do that, we absolutely will be starting to get it out, to our organization first, then eventually into the community.”

Rice also touted her department’s collaboration with a design club at Canyon Creek Middle School and the district’s maintenance and custodial staff to design a “catch guard” for hand sanitizing devices; and its engineering students, who are working to design a device that would reduce the amount of water run-off in Washougal. Those students hope to present their plans to city of Washougal officials later this year.

“(My approach is) really about developing cutting-edge programs in collaboration with my teachers and industry professionals, like our business leaders and within our own organization, to make sure our students are career and college ready. It’s really as simple as that,” said Rice, in her seventh year as the district’s CTE director. “It’s really about developing those programs that engage students in high-level learning that’s authentic.

“With these amazing teachers that I work with every day, and the business partners that we connect with through advisory committees that help to make sure that our programs are there, we tweak (the programs) and keep working toward developing those 21-century skills within the content area so that our students succeed no matter what they do when they leave our system, whether it’s going into the trades, a tech school, the military, straight into a job that turns into a career, or college or university.”

CTE director nominated for state award

Rice was recently named the Southwest Washington region’s nominee for the Washington Association of Career and Technical Administrators’ 2022 Outstanding CTE Administrator of the Year award.

The group will announce the winner of the award during its annual conference, to be held in August in Spokane, Washington. The award recognizes educators who make extraordinary contributions to career and technical education, create programs that exemplify the highest standards, and promote and expand CTE opportunities.

Rice said she was “humbled and honored” to receive the nomination.

“We have a very strong CTE administrative presence here in Southwest Washington, and there are many deserving candidates, so I was very surprised,” she said. “It means a lot to have that come from my peers. We really support each other, and I think it’s an amazing honor to have your peers recognize the work that you’re doing, especially when you see the stellar work that they’re doing.”