More than 12 years ago, Bob Sexton started changing the way technology was taught at Seymour High School. With the change came complaints and concerns from parents who said their children should be learning woodworking, not manufacturing. Through hard work and determination, Sexton proved the need for a new way of teaching technology education. He recently was presented with the 2007 Distinguished Teacher of the Year award from the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce for his work at the school.
Several years ago, John Bottorff, then director of the chamber, took Sexton on a two-week tour through many of Jackson County's industries. "I had a grant proposal that I was working on and he took two weeks to run me through different companies; it was the beginning of the industry and the school partnership," Sexton said during the recent annual chamber awards program. "The partnership is still growing, thanks to Jackie Hill and Jackson County Industrial Development Corp."
Today, Sexton's manufacturing lab is being used as an example for other communities that want to develop their own labs as part of the Economic Opportunities 2015, or EcO15 project. EcO15 is a regional project that covers southeast Indiana and focuses on advanced manufacturing, health care services, and hospitality and tourism.
Recently, community foundation officials from around southeast Indiana toured the lab to get ideas to take back to their own schools. Sexton said the southeast region of Indiana will see the results of the $38 million grant from the Lilly Endowment fund that he was a part of this year. "The grant has allowed me to show off to the entire state our facilities at Seymour High School," Sexton said during his award acceptance speech. "Thankfully, years ago we had the foresight to do something and to follow a thought that I truly believe in," Sexton added. "That is what we need to teach, this generation's future, not my past. The 'Dream It. Do It.' campaign has allowed me to do that."
The Indiana Region 9 Workforce Board, in partnership with educators, businesses, government, and economic development officials, launched "Dream It. Do It." The program's goal is to make this region of the Hoosier state the best place in the world for manufacturing and a major player in the global economy. Sexton's lab has not only brought people in from surrounding communities, he also has been busy giving tours to people from as far away as Texas and Canada.
This year, Sexton has changed his teaching methods to add online learning. "Man, that's a whole different ball game for me," Sexton said. "It pushes me a little further; it pushes me further than my students at times." Sexton said the school has also added the Manufacturing Skill Standards class, which is a night class for adults. He hopes to incorporate it into the curriculum for high school students in the fall. "I want to be teaching the next generation's future, not my past," Sexton repeated, and that is exactly what he's done.
Sexton has success stories of many of his former students, and one student told Sexton shortly after getting a job that he was being considered for promotion. "The student was ahead of the game because he had knowledge of one of the software programs the company used that he had learned in high school," Sexton said. During the tour with community foundation leaders, Sexton talked about a student he had who was into robotics. "He used every excuse to be able to use the robot," Sexton said. "He would rush to get done with whatever station he was assigned to, so he would have time to use the robot. He would come in on his own free time to use the robot." After high school, the student went on to college, where he won awards in robotics, and he later went to work for Sony.
Superintendent Robert Schmielau said the program and its hands-on approach offers advantages to students and community and could help battle the so-called brain drain of graduates completing their educations and living and working elsewhere. …