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How one teacher helped change an entire community

  • Joanna
  • March 20, 2017

Superintendent Harry Martin will readily admit that he was a career-tech-ed skeptic when he first arrived in the 2,000-student Kayenta Unified School District in the exceptionally picturesque and very rural northeastern corner of Arizona. A former English teacher, Martin wanted his predominantly Native American students to build upon more traditional areas of academics.

Then he noticed something. In a community facing crippling poverty and high unemployment, the students enrolled in a hands-on agricultural science program launched by teacher Clyde McBride in 1990 were outscoring their peers on math and English tests. And they were graduating — every one of them.

Today, Martin told EdWeek, he’s a believer.

And well we all should be.

There’s no real magic to what McBride did at Monument Valley High School. He simply looked around at the community he was serving, recognized the skills that were needed, and began to build a program to serve those needs.

“The ag-science building functions as both classroom and community clinic,” reporter Catherine Gewertz writes. “Dogs, cats, goats, cows, sheep, and horses flow through its big doors all day — more than 12,000 animal patients in the past five years. For a modest fee, community members can get a range of services that are either impossible to find nearby or are too costly.”

And the students, in turn, learn — and fast. Not just about basic animal veterinary care, but about customer service, keeping records, working as part of a team, and — perhaps most importantly — how skills, education and experience combine to make a person valuable to future employers.

What are the skills that are needed in your community? When it comes to career-tech-ed, that’s where to start.