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New career technical education course offerings provide students with pathways to professions

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Students show off their chain reaction process projects in John Rakos' 'Intro to Robotics' class. It has been a longtime goal of the Oregon Trail School Board to expand the district's career technical education program. This year, even after the retirement of CTE champion and School Board Chairman Terry Lenchitsky, the program has gained some new concentrations, including classes such as digital design and introduction to robotics.

"We already had a real presence in traditional manufacturing and technology," explained Sandy High School Assistant Principal Ladine Marquardt. "What we wanted to do was appeal to a broader audience."

To date, the high school offers classes in agriculture, health sciences automotive, manufacturing, engineering, business and digital design. Marquardt said it hopes to bring on more courses in computer science and journalism in years to come.

As the CTE program grew this year, so did the need for staff.

New to the school and teaching in general, longtime TV industry and digital-media professional Andrew Stanfield said he is looking forward to seeing how the newly added digital design courses he teaches grow in size and structure, and his 160-180 students seem pretty enthused as well.

"There seems to be some excitement," he explained. "There are some kids who have some experience already. I'd like to think even the kids who are at zero would at the end of the semester have a basic understanding."

Stanfield also wants to find common ground and ways to collaborate between the different concentrations of the department. He sees the digital design courses as not purely art, but also aimed at teaching business and technology skills.

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - High-schoolers enjoy a 'hands-on' learning experience, said teacher John Rakos."I want everything we do to have an audience," he added. "It's art for commerce. Since we're in the same department, I'd like to (partner in) that business mentality."

In his second year as a member of the CTE program staff, John Rakos is excited to see students receiving more tangible experience with the new courses, such as his introductory robotics class and principles of engineering course.

In Rakos' classroom, students are exposed to industry-level programs and machinery.

"They are engaged," Rakos said. "It's a very hands-on topic. I love the technology we get to interact with. The kids get a chance to do types of things they would be expected to do in the industry, (and) I get to sneak the math in."

As a teacher with a background in mathematics and computer science, Rakos likes showing students how relevant math is to their desired careers, and making the not-always-popular subject more enjoyable for them.

"They work through the challenge of (the classes) because of the (experience)," Rakos added.

Rako's hopes in the future to "explore engineering topics beyond the basics ... I'd love to see the program grow," he said.

Though it's only week four of the school year, teachers said they've seen real student engagement. And that engagement, Marquardt noted, leads to students walking at graduation.

"We know CTE programs help students make it to graduation," she said. "Long term, this is a big benefit for our kids. It's going to bring a lot of cool opportunities to Sandy High School."

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