Teachers in motion

Careers in Education: Satisfaction guaranteed

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Nashua’s Kalea Hancock, 17, a senior, pauses in teaching some math skills by counting plastic veggies with little Olivia, a student at a preschool located within Nashua High School South where juniors and seniors are completing their teacher training through the school’s Nashua Technology Center and its Careers in Education program, one of 15 Career and Technical Education courses through which CTE students can learn trades that offer an immediate entree into employment upon graduation.

Careers in education are in full embrace by juniors and seniors who are mastering teaching techniques at the Nashua Technology Center.

The classes are comprised of students from regional high schools who take their instruction at the technology center, located within Nashua High School South, on Riverside Street. Other trade programs are offered at Nashua High School North.

The program at South is ongoing at the spacious portion of the high school that houses the Purple Panther Preschool, founded nearly 50 years ago. Celestial bodies of energy, ages 3-5, express creativity there by coloring, squishing clay into works of something, and learning arithmetic by counting plastic vegetables and sharing many other tasks.

A recent meeting of the center’s staff was headed by Nicole Robinson, the preschool’s director and a teacher. There, too, was Angela DeRusha, a teacher whose forte is special ed. Two more present included Martine Cloutier, the instructor for first-year students, and Judy Loftus, the instructor for second-year students. The quartet’s commendation of technical trade education was unanimously affirmative.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Purple Panther Preschool teachers, standing from left, Nicole Robinson, director; Angela DeRusha, a teacher with special education credentials; Martine Cloutier, instructor of the Careers In Education first-year classes, and Judy Loftus, instructor of the program’s second-year classes, begin the day with a welcome for some young students, standing from left, Jonathan, Braylen, Olivia and Isabella, seen here with classmates, seated from left, Joshua, Quinby, Julio and Autumn.

“We teach our high schoolers how to interact with children and we help them to explore careers,” Robinson said. “Usually, by the second year, they know if this is what they want to do.”

The trade courses presented at South, or North, provide hands-on learning in 15 programs. Included are biotechnology, cosmetology and culinary arts, along with pre-engineering, construction technology and video production and broadcasting. Computer aided drafting and design is an offering, as is electrical trades technology, financial services and marketing.

In addition, there is training available in computer networking, health sciences and precision machining technology. Automotive technology is offered, as is a course focused on heating, ventilation and air conditioning. All of them present opportunities upon graduation for instant employment and a substantial paycheck.

According to a “Career Outlook” report of June 2016, from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, some 1.9 million job openings await teachers of all grades, preschool through high school. Salaries of $50K or more are cited.

Amanda Bastoni, director of Nashua Technology Center North, said today’s Career and Technical Education curriculums are clear pathways to college and to the workforce. She affirms that students are “rigorously” prepared for employment by the CTE experience, as well as for subsequent college degrees.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON A masterpiece in progress is accomplished by a budding artist, Julio, whose teachers are students in the Careers in Education program offered through the Nashua Technology Center’s “Careers and Technology Education” classes, a set of 15 trade courses offered to juniors and seniors from regional high schools.

“It is essential that we educate parents, teachers and students about Career and Technical Education,” Bastoni said. “It is no longer the vocational education of the past.”

She notes that research proves that students who undertake trade courses are “connected” to real-world opportunities and experiences. They are more likely to finish high school. They have higher salaries after graduation, she said.

“We need to get rid of the stigma that can be associated with CTE and start promoting these types of courses to all students,” Bastoni added.

Teachers in math, foreign languages, and special education are in high demand, she said. Robinson added that quite a few graduates of the Careers in Education program at South currently are teaching in the Nashua School District, as well as many others.

It is the juniors that receive their teacher training alongside the youngsters at Purple Panther. The senior-class students serve at local public schools and fine-tune their skills as teachers’ aides.

Cloutier said the first year of the two-year program offers an opportunity to explore the potential of transforming a teaching experience into a career path.

“They do get college credits,” said Cloutier. “And, no matter what career path they choose, the students have great models and get exposed to a lot of different related fields, including counseling and psychology.”

Loftus said the preschool is an ideal place to learn the art and science of teaching. It boasts a ratio of two teachers to one child.

“It’s come full circle,” said Loftus. “Students who took their classes here are now teaching elsewhere and mentoring current Careers in Education students.”

Meanwhile, Kalea Hancock, 17, a senior and a Nashua resident, paused in counting plastic apples and oranges with a little child, Olivia. The girl’s initial efforts to toss the colorful orbs into a basket grew into Tom Brady-esque throws by the time she launched a rigid stalk of broccoli. Teacher Hancock smiled at each of the girl’s successes.

Hancock said she is intent on becoming a teacher. She said she enjoys “seeing the children smiling.” She also said she would encourage anyone of like mind to take the program, as learning the trade can lead to a lifelong career.

“I’ve always liked small children,” Hancock said. “So, this was the perfect fit.”