Career Technical Education lessons introduced at community schools

Students at Mid-County and Superior community schools are learning a wide variety of vocational skills and lessons this year. Led by teacher Angel Olea, the lessons are incorporating various building trades, including plan development, grading, concrete, framing, irrigation, and electrical. This fall, the lessons will extend to numerous other trades, thanks to curriculum purchased by the schools.

A visit to Mid-County Community School this fall will find students engaged in a variety of projects to prepare for series of new buildings. Last week, students operated a small tractor to move earth from one side of the campus to the site of the new buildings, while others used a vibration plate compactor to level the soil. Next week, the students will erect a shed for their tools – the first of four new buildings. Following the shed, students will create an outdoor coffee vending area to serve employees who work at the adjacent TCOE Doe Avenue site and install two new greenhouses.

Olea began teaching the Career Technical Education (CTE) lessons at both sites in January 2022, having worked for the past six years as a truancy officer at Mid-County and later as a CTE teacher at the Juvenile Detention Facility. Joseph, a senior at Mid-County, appreciates the new curriculum. “This was completely new to most of us; it’s amazing what we’ve been able to learn,” he said. “Mr. Olea has been amazing too. He really cares for us.”

Last spring, students at Mid-County cleared an area of the site that shares a fence line with the Doe Avenue Complex. With Olea’s guidance, the students constructed a variety of beautiful ground level and raised garden containers. The students planted various vegetables and, in the process, received hands-on lessons in plant science and irrigation system design. “Once the planters were complete, we had neighboring TCOE employees and parents stop to ask if they could buy a container, or if we would make one for them,” smiled Matt Lee, Mid-County’s lead teacher.

Lee reports that the construction trades will be augmented by design work. “Mr. Olea is already showing our students how to read and draw plans,” he said. “In the near future, we hope they will be doing their own designs utilizing Tinkercad, which will also integrate with our new 3D printer.”

Impressed with students work last spring, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire and Special Services administrators Tammy Bradford and Sarah Hamilton encouraged the idea of Mid-County students developing a coffee and snack service operation similar to the Redwood Center Café operated at the Mooney administration building. This fall, Lee anticipates the new MC Café will open with coffee and fresh-baked pastries from the Mid-County kitchen. On select mornings each week, the items will be available for purchase by employees and visitors to the Doe Avenue Complex.

Community school teachers will supplement Olea’s construction trades lessons with a hybrid online/hands-on career curriculum known as Paxton/Patterson College & Career Ready Labs. First used in partnership with Tulare County Probation for students served at the Juvenile Detention Facility, the Paxton/Patterson labs include units on careers in health science and construction. Olea reports that the curriculum can be used during wet winter days, with each unit taking about 10-15 weeks. For each trade, the labs include information on additional training students may need to obtain and where they can find it in Tulare County. Senior Matt, who has enjoyed learning to drive the tractor and build the garden beds, is looking forward to the Paxton/Patterson lab on plumbing. “Plumbing is the area that really caught my attention,” he said. “Plumbing and electrical, too.”

“Our goal in introducing CTE to the community school students is to create interest,” Lee said. “We want these students and those we serve in the future to see the possibilities they have to do what they love and to make a good living at it.”

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