The Winners' Circle

By Reese, Susan | Techniques, April 2002 | Go to article overview
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The Winners' Circle

Reese, Susan, Techniques

At the ACTS convention in New Orleans lost December, four of our outstanding career and technical educators received top honors.

Coleen C. Keffeler

ACTS-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.

School-to-Career Success

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.

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