Teachers@Work program takes industry into the classroom

Published 8:16 pm Friday, May 27, 2016

Two Beaufort County teachers are taking a break from the classroom to try their hand at the manufacturing business.

Washington High School teachers Shelley West and Anna Densmore will spend one week of their summer at Hyster-Yale in Greenville, as part of the Teachers@Work initiative, a North Carolina Business Committee for Education program designed to get teachers into area businesses.

Although this year’s participating businesses are located outside of Beaufort County, one goal is to expand the program across the state. West and Densmore are part of a recent expansion into an 11-county area of eastern North Carolina, a plan supported by funding from the Golden LEAF Foundation, as well as backing from STEM East and the N.C. Community College System, according to a NCBCE release.

The 11-county area includes: Pitt, Greene, Wayne, Lenoir, Craven, Jones, Onslow, Duplin, Carteret, Pamlico and Beaufort counties. Teachers@Work will include 50 teachers statewide this year, 25 of which will represent the eastern part.

During the Teachers@Work program, teachers are matched up with a business that can relate to what they teach.

Hyster-Yale designs and manufactures material-handling products. West will bring her knowledge of math education to the table, and Densmore, her knowledge of science.

West said she also worked in the engineering industry before becoming a teacher.

“I look forward to helping students make the connections between their high school experiences and the skills employers are looking for in the workforce,” she said.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend for their time, and after the week, must create a lesson plan reflecting what they learned through the experience.

“These teachers need to understand the economy as much as they do education,” said Steve Hill, executive director of STEM East, a networking company that encourages the use of science, technology, engineering and math. “This is an economic initiative. … How do we get more teachers out to the businesses?”

Hill and about 15 others gathered in Greenville on Monday morning for a roundtable discussion about this year’s plans for the eastern region. Businesses ranging from Vidant Health and State Farm, to Duke Energy and Hyster-Yale were represented at the discussion.

“We’re trying to get to more teachers,” NCBCE Executive Director Sue Breckenridge said Monday. “We can’t do this for all of them, but we can have teacher leaders.”

Breckenridge said the initiative is a push for the career readiness aspect of education, and businesses have embraced the idea and expressed their support.

“It’s very broad in its scope and it’s also very flexible,” she said. “We can take an Ag teacher and put her into an insurance company.”

Lisa Lassiter, administrator at Vidant Health Careers, said participating teachers can take even basic skills back to the classroom, including interview skills, proper handshaking and eye contact.

Vidant is one of the largest employers in Beaufort County.

“They lack soft skills and lack communication skills,” Lassiter said of the incoming workforce. “It’s more than just learning what a profession is.”

Students also have a skewed view of the workforce, as well, such as comparing the healthcare industry to the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy,” she said.

By inviting the teachers into businesses, they can take what they’ve learned back to the classroom and better prepare students for the workforce.

“I am excited about being selected to participate,” West said.