Coleen C. Keffeler
ACTE-McDonald's Teacher of the Year
Coleen Keffeler has been a family and consumer sciences teacher for 15 years, 10 of them at Sturgis Brown High School in Sturgis, South Dakota, where she is credited with developing an innovative curriculum to meet the needs of the students. When she first came to Sturgis, she found that the family and consumer sciences curriculum was what she describes as "from the 1970s," and boys could only take the independent living "bachelor survival" courses. Although not as many boys as she had hoped have taken the current courses, some have--including one student from her 2000 class who is considering a career in child development or the medical field. Both male and female students take advantage of a program in which they learn infant, child and adult CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. Fort Meade Veterans Administration is just across the highway from the school, so nurses from the facility come and work with the students. By passing written and performance tests, the Sturgis students can earn Heart Saver certification.
Education for the Real World
Keffeler changed the child development course to a program in which each student spends eight weeks going through classroom training and 10 weeks in an on-site placement based on the interest area of the student. She tells the students during the classroom training, "I'm going to put a lot of responsibility on you, because this is what you will need to know on the job. But, we're going to have fun." That fun involves exciting, hands-on projects that help give an accurate assessment of what the students have actually learned and what they can actually do.
Students then spend the work-based section of the course at sites that are determined by their interest areas, such as licensed day care facilities, early preschools, K-4 classrooms, special education classrooms, or even the nurse's office.
Another class developed by Keffeler is a hospitality course that she modeled after the American Hotel Motel Association curriculum. As part of a teacher externship, she spent a week one summer at the Rushmore Plaza Holiday Inn in Rapid City. There, she worked in the restaurant, at the front desk, sat in on interviews with the human resources department, and even cleaned the swimming pool. In the fall, Keffeler was able to bring her students to the facility, where they got to repeat her experience on a smaller scale.
In June 2000, Keffeler became the coordinator of the Schools-to-Career program at Sturgis. She was ideally qualified for the position, having developed a career planning class that was a prerequisite to a youth internship program. Students in the semester-long career planning class spend nine weeks in career exploration and nine weeks learning how to prepare resumes and complete job applications and learning interview skills. They also develop a digital portfolio, which they update in the youth internship program. As part of the youth internship program, students work in nonpaid, on-site jobs for which they receive school credit. Keffeler developed a Web site for the School-to-Careers program and an intranet page on school-to-career/ youth internship opportunities, as well as site-specific task competency lists for every job site for the youth internship program.
As a dedicated teacher, Keffeler is exceedingly proud of the accomplishments of her students and eagerly relates their successes. One of her students is working for the police department and is so skilled on the computer that she was able to help an officer who was having difficulty creating a graph to convey information needed for a criminal trial. The student came up with a descriptive pie chart that was so effective that it resulted in the handing down of a maximum sentence. The state's attorney for the case thanked the student and told her, "Your graph and chart were what did it."
Another of Keffeler's students was recently named the South Dakota Workforce Development Council Student of the Year for her work at the Fort Meade pharmacy where she was treated as if she were a pharmacy technician--waiting on patients and filling prescriptions under the supervision of the pharmacist.
A student who recently balanced the tires on Keffeler's car has decided he wants to be a mechanic and plans to go to Wyoming Tech. A girl working in the radiology lab of a local clinic saw her first ultrasound of a baby and is already preparing her paperwork to go to school in the fall to pursue a career in the field. "You see them out in their internships," says Keffeler, "and it's amazing to see how much they grow up in that two- or three-mile drive to town."
The important thing is to find what you really enjoy doing, she tells her students. "If you enjoy what you do, you never work a day in your life."
Keffeler even sees a benefit in finding what you don't want to do. When a student came back from spending time in elementary and middle school classrooms, he told her, "You teachers don't get paid enough. There's no way I'm going to be a teacher."
"That's okay," she replied. "You found out what you like and what you don't like."
Teaching is definitely something Keffeler likes. "I love my job. I can't imagine doing anything else," she says.
In addition to her full schedule at Sturgis High School, Keffeler, who already has a master's degree, is taking graduate classes to get an endorsement for certification in career and technical education administration. She is also working with the employability instructor to get a school-to-work grant for a computer lab for special needs students at her high school. Keffeler is an active 4-H leader and a frequent judge at county fairs--carrying on a family tradition, since her mother and grandmother were both 4-H leaders. She is married with two children, and her son is currently a freshman at Sturgis High School. When her daughter attended Sturgis, she was in her mother's child development and youth internship programs. Now Coleen Keffeler's daughter is attending college, where she is majoring in elementary education, preparing to become a teacher like her mother.
Certainly the profession will be fortunate to have another teacher with the love of teaching and the ability to guide students through the learning and exploration that will lead them to successful careers. Those are the qualities that make Coleen Keffeler the 2002 ACTE-McDonald's Teacher of the Year.
Robert J. Kemmery Jr.
ACTE-McDonald's Outstanding Career and Technical Educator
When Robert Kemmery came to Eastern Technical High School in Baltimore, Md., in 1991, he was undaunted by the fact that the school, which is located in the most economically challenged community of Baltimore, was far from adequate in meeting the needs of its students. He had a plan and a vision for turning the school around, and the location of the school didn't change his plan. After all, Kemmery says, "I grew up in Pittsburgh in the back yard of a steel mill."
Today, Eastern Technical High School is an award-winning school that has become a model for other schools and communities to follow. In the last five years, visitors have come from 45 states and 25 countries to learn about the program. In 1997, Eastern Tech was designated a Maryland Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, and in 1999, it was named a U.S. Department of Education New American High School. Baltimore Magazine named Eastern Tech one of the area's top high schools in 2001 and honored Kemmery as "Baltimorean of the Year" in January 2000.
A Turn Toward Excellence
The turnaround for the school has been nothing short of remarkable. In 1991, less than one percent of the students were deemed ready for college, and only five percent took the SAT exam, achieving an average score of 950. In 2001, 87 percent of the students were prepared for college, and 43 percent took the SAT exam. The average score was 1059.
To achieve his vision of success for his students, Kemmery set high standards for rigorous course work, but his creation of Model Career Action Plans was the key element in their success. "This is the opening to help ALL students," he explains.
Kemmery had found what he describes as "a very big disconnect between where the students were and the community's expectations." To make the connection he felt was needed between the community and the school, he formed partnerships that allowed the students to experience the business world and develop real-world training in career-focused programs. With input from the business community and postsecondary education institutions, the Eastern Tech program was rebuilt and 10 career major programs were established.
Kemmery says, "It takes a lot of people to buy in and help make a school successful." He credits not only the teachers and assistant principals, but also the members of the community that all became a part of his mission. "I always believed in community service," Kemmery explains, "and the business of schools is building their communities."
Building such a success has paid big dividends, and the school that once could not even fill all of the seats with students now has more than 1,300 students. Twenty percent of the students are accepted on an academic basis. But, with 340 openings each year and 750 students hoping to get in, a lottery must be held for the other 80 percent of the class.
Strong academics are important to Kemmery, who spent 12 years teaching work-based learning, English and social studies. He was also an assistant principal at three technical schools over a period of eight years. Throughout his career, Kemmery has seen the importance of connecting quality education with career exploration. "I believe in my heart and soul that this is the opening to help disadvantaged students."
Kemmery shares his blueprint for success with other educators through workshops and seminars, and is very active in state and national associations. As a fellow principal says of his contributions as an educational leader, "Mr. Kemmery has created a school spirit that has moved beyond the boundaries of the Eastern Tech community to shape the lives of his professional peers and the educational landscape of schools nationwide."
Kemmery himself is proud of his school but says modestly, "We're still working on it, but I feel pretty good about it." That is the philosophy of a true innovator. Achieving excellence does not mean it's time to rest on your laurels. Instead he is working on convincing President Bush to come to Eastern Technical High School to see what a model career and technical school can accomplish. And while it would be a great privilege for Kemmery to meet the president, it will most certainly also be a great privilege for the president to meet Robert Kemmery, an outstanding career and technical educator.
Billie Sue Burris
ACTE-McDonald's Outstanding New Career and Technical Teacher
Billie Sue Burris (who actually goes by Sue) is only in her sixth year of teaching, but as she looks back on her years in the business world, she realizes that teaching has long been a part of her life. As a data entry supervisor, she often had to train employees. "I was teaching then," she says. "I just didn't know it."
Burris took time off from the business world after starting a family, and when her children were in school, she began substitute teaching. She found that she really liked teaching, and other teachers recognized her talent for it, encouraging her to get her certification and become a full-time teacher.
Today, Burris is a computer information systems instructor at Quapaw Technical Institute in Hot Springs, Arkansas. There, she teaches at the postsecondary level in a broad-based program that focuses on teaching entry-level skills including PC repair, networking, programming and network cabling. Two years ago, when the chair of the department left the school, Burris became the department chair. She has since guided the computer information systems department toward achievement of her vision, which includes not only staying on the cutting-edge of technology but also forging a cooperative effort among students, educators, professionals, industry leaders and community participants.
Results and Rewards
Burris gets to know her students over the course of the two-year program, since she usually has each student in two or three classes, and she coordinates a five-week internship program for each student prior to graduation. That's when she can really see the results of her work, and that's why she says she loves teaching. "When you see someone come to school with low self esteem and very little confidence, then you see them grow through the course of the first year and gain confidence over the second one; when they graduate and get a well-paying job is the time the real reward of teaching comes."
Burris is co-sponsor of the local chapter of CIS Skills-USA VICA and in 2000, her computer information systems students won a gold medal in the Quiz Bowl competition at the state level, and then went on to win the gold at the national level. She is now in the third year of a five-year gear-up grant that was used to develop a summer skills camp for seventh and eighth graders. Burris and another instructor designed the occupational skills camp to introduce younger students to career and technical education. One of the goals of the camp is to try to show the kids the relevance of what they're learning now and how they will need it later in life. It's also important for them to see that learning is an ongoing process.
An Ongoing Education
Lifelong learning is something Burris knows a lot about. Although she has a very busy life that includes a family and active participation in church and community activities, she knows the importance of staying current on new technologies, especially in her field of computer science.
"Every semester there's a new course I need to take or a new technology I need to learn about. That's not going to change," Burris explains. "To stay on top of it and give my students the best education possible, I have to keep going back and upgrading my skills. That's a necessity because of the field I have chosen."
She hopes that she will be a model of lifelong learning to her students. The lesson, says Burris is, "I'm teaching, but I have to go back. Education doesn't stop when you graduate, but is really just beginning."
Another learning opportunity for Burris comes from her involvement with ACTE, which she has found especially helpful, since her background is in business, not education. "The training and workshops at the convention have been invaluable, and it comes at just the right time to give me the extra boost I need to get through the second half of the year. ACTE has been a great organization for me professionally and personally."
Being named the ACTE-McDonald's Outstanding New Career and Technical Teacher is "just icing on the cake," she says. And her description of ACTE is also quite fitting for Sue Burris herself. She calls it "the teaching spirit at its best."
Her teaching spirit is admired by her colleagues at Quapaw Technical Institute. As one of them says of Burris, "She is the type of teacher that we all aspire to be."
Sarah E. Raikes
ACTE-McDonald's Outstanding Teacher in Community Service
Sarah Raikes was teaching in a very successful family and consumer sciences program at Campbellsville High School in Taylor County, Kentucky, when she decided to move to the high school in Washington County. She didn't go because it was a bigger and better school. She didn't go for more money. She went simply because she was needed there.
Raikes had already rejuvenated the family and consumer sciences program at Campbellsville and had gotten her students there involved in community service projects that ranged from cancer fundraisers and educational fairs to FCCLA Stop-the-Violence events and holiday events for needy children. The family and consumer sciences program in Campbellsville was strong, but in Washington County, the program was on the verge of being closed. It wasn't even called family and consumer sciences; it was still home economics. The year before she came, there wasn't a certified instructor from December until the end of the school year. Students just put in their time, cooked and saw the class as "an easy A."
That all changed with the arrival of Sarah Raikes. She didn't just change the name from home economics to the national standard of family and consumer sciences; she made sure the curriculum matched those standards. She established career paths and career interest inventories, did brochures, and talked to all of the students. Raikes made it clear that it was now a real class, to be considered as a serious elective, and that, "When you come into this program, you're going to work." She even called parents to tell them of the results of the career interest inventories of their children, and she carried on her tradition of community service.
Service with a Meaning
As Raikes puts it, "We volunteered for anything and everything--from picnics to day care to chamber of commerce luncheons. When you do things for the community, they find out you're there, and then they sell your program."
Community service is a large part of Raikes' teaching, but she says, "Everything I do is core content and curriculum based." She tied a study unit on birth defects in with participation in the March of Dimes, and MADD was incorporated into a study of values and decision-making.
"We're always looking for needs that haven't been met," Raikes explains, "and we have a list that we keep by the computer. But I always run it by the kids to make sure that they're willing. They have to have ownership in it." Some of their projects have hit very close to home. Last year, two teachers at the school lost their homes to fire, so the students filled a basket for each of them with Christmas tree ornaments to replace those that had been lost. One of the students at the school was recently paralyzed in a diving accident at a backyard swimming pool. It hit the other students very hard, so they hope to do something with Cardinal Hill, the rehabilitation center where the injured student received treatment.
A True Role Model
Within a few months of coming to Washington County, Raikes had increased membership in FCCLA from six to 60, and this year it reached 110. "I was a state FHA officer in high school," says Raikes. "I've been on the other side, and I know what it did for me as a student. It made a difference."
Making a difference is exactly what Raikes herself does--through her work in the community and in the classroom. In both of the communities where she has taught, she is described as a role model for her students, both as an educator and a citizen. Her school superintendent says of Raikes, "She sets high standards for herself and her students and then works hard to see that they are met. I have never known a more dedicated instructor."
Raikes says simply, "I have a passion for what I do." She cares about her students and finds that what means the most to her is seeing their joy and their growth. When she left Campbellsville to go to the high school in Washington County, she says, "I didn't know whom I was sent here for. Now I know who the students are who needed me here. Now I know their names."
They are not likely to forget her name, because she is the kind of teacher who truly makes a difference in the lives of her students and her community. And as the first recipient of the ACTE-McDonald's Outstanding Teacher in Community Service, she is also assured that her name now has a place in the history of ACTE.…