Saturday, 25 May 2019
BREAKING NEWS

Western Local School District incorporates Life Skills classes into 2018-19 curriculum

Western Local School District incorporated Life Skills classes for grades 7 through 12th grade into its curriculum for the 2018-19 school year. Western High School principal Carrie Gast said Life Skills classes were taught to 7th and 8th grade students by VoAg teacher Carla Bland at Western schools last year. “This is the first year that we’ve extended (Life Skills training) to this level,” Gast said. Western schools hired Scott Caudill this year “for the (students) to get what they’re not getting in their regular core classes,” said Gast. “With the testing, the state requirements, our kids are missing out on all these other things that (classes such as home economics) used to give them.” “We saw a real need for our students to have that background because we realized that they weren’t getting it,” said Gast. “And for years we felt like we do (provide the background) here and there, but is every kid getting it? Do we have a system where we know that, when they come out of here, they’re ready for the future? We wanted to ensure that the board of education, the superintendent, the teachers, everybody saw it as a need.” Gast said Caudill will cover various aspects, such as personal finance, job skills, career and college development skills, as well as running a home and taking care of a vehicle. Caudill is responsible for teaching all freshmen and most junior and senior students at Western. Western sophomores receive Life Skills instructions from three other teachers, (Nicholas) Hamilton, (Roger) Holbrook and (Tara) Reed, Gast said. Hamilton and Reed typically teach social studies at Western, and Holbrook teaches science, according to Gast. “We have another teacher, (Rhonda) Schuler, and she has our seniors so if they forget any of the things, like the financial aspects of what they’re taught, then their senior year they have a senior seminar class and (that) class basically helps them with scholarship writing, career and college readiness, and she covers the financial aspects with the (students) as well,” Gast said. In September, Gast reached out to the community for input about teaching Life Skills at Western schools. “This year I posted it on Facebook,” said Gast. “I put it out to the community: this is what we are going to do. Let us know what you think needs covered in the curriculum.” “For the past two days Mr. Caudill has been teaching (students) how to change a tire,” Gast wrote in the Sept. 6 post. “Our goal is for every student to leave Western ‘life-ready.’ Every student will know how to check oil, change oil, check air and change tires, check battery cables, and other basic vehicle maintenance. They’ll understand checking, interest, banking in general, taxes, insurance, interviewing skills, etc. A big part of the program involves job shadowing and community service. They’ll learn canning and basic ‘take care of your own life’ skills that they can’t get in regular classes … We took several kids to job interviews last week and they were all hired. Our motto is, ‘Building our community one kid at a time. We believe this is a great way to do it.’” Gast’s Facebook post received 448 comments and 1,360 shares. “We got all sorts of responses back,” Gast said. “It was great. The feedback was final.” The current and upcoming Life Skills activities taught or to be taught at Western include changing vehicle brakes, applying dry wall and sheet rock to a 2×2 wall, laying ceramic tile, cooking skills, washing laundry, brushing teeth, applying deodorant, personal hygiene, personal finance (banking and credit cards), real estate contracts, types and reasons for insurance, amortization tables, completing a resume and job application, study skills, how to handle money, how to date and manners, self defense, first aid, learning from failure, the law and all its penalties (OVI, drug offense, fleeing a law enforcement officer), how to deal with conflict, conducting a career fair, and exposing students to different career options through guest speakers from various career fields. “Those first few months after high school are always tough for rural kids who have always had the school to guide them throughout their entire lives. They spend 13 years being told what to do and how to do it and then May comes and we just kick them out of the only consistent thing in many of our kids’ lives, and (we) tell them good luck,” said Brock Brewster, superintendent of Western Local Schools. “The system hasn’t worked well for our kids who aren’t going to college. That is why we decided to implement this program,” said Brewster. “However, the reality is that most of our kids won’t attend a four year college … This program can serve to level the playing field and send our kids into their post-high school lives with some skills and lots of confidence and many experiences that they wouldn’t get otherwise.” “I am very hopeful that this program, once in full implementation, will serve to bridge the gap between school and careers that many Appalachian kids typically have to figure out on their own right after high school,” Brewster said. “It’s a learning process for all of us but we are committed to the program and believe in it fully.” Schuler said students spend half the school year “looking at the different colleges, taking tours, listening to college representatives, looking at their costs, and then applying to the schools,” shadowing in their chosen career field and preparing essays for scholarships. Students spend the second half of the year completing scholarship applications, Schuler said. Schuler said students in her class “are taking college credit courses and (are) also very active in sports and other extracurricular activities.” “This class helps keep (students) on track and focused on completing the scholarships,” Schuler said. Holbrook said he is proud of the various programs offered at Western. “Our goal is always to graduate students who are ready for their life beyond high school, regardless of whether that be college education, trade schools, or entering into the workforce,” Holbrook said. “I think that our new life skills program allows students to explore their options and determine what path they want to pursue.” Holbrook said that Western students have had, since the start of the school year, opportunities to meet with armed services members, job recruiters, college representatives, and small business owners and have explored developing technologies and trades they can look into upon graduating from high school. Holbrook said the school tries to expose students to skills that they can use as community members. “The community has been excellent in providing opportunities to our students and we will continue trying to get them even more involved,” Holbrook said. “Anytime you try something new like this, the enthusiasm that the students bring will determine the success of the program,” Holbrook said. “The students in the life skills program have been willing to embrace the new opportunities that they have been offered and have shown leadership in determining the direction of the program. It has been encouraging to see them step up and make the program thrive.” Gast said those opposed to teaching Life Skills to students feel parents, not schools, should teach life skills to their children. “Parents do teach this to a certain extent, but do parents ever get to say, by the time you graduate high school, we want to ensure that you have this and this and this?” Gast said. “Parents teach by the kids observing what they do (such as cooking, cleaning, banking, and more, according to Gast) … But I do believe it’s not just the parents’ responsibility, I also believe it’s the school’s responsibility to teach (Life Skills).” “I think the need is great here because we’re a rural school, and there are not a lot of influences out here where we are except for the school. There are not a lot of businesses around; there’s not a lot of activity around. Everything centers around the school … We feel a great responsibility because we know if we don’t do it, there are not going to be a whole lot of other influences in teaching,” said Gast. “I feel like we’re finally starting to get a really good system in place to catch all of our kids so that when they come out of here, they’re thinking, ‘They didn’t just prepare me to do well in college or to do well in school and take a test; they really did prepare me for life.’”

Western Local School District incorporated Life Skills classes for grades 7 through 12th grade into its curriculum for the 2018-19 school year.

Western High School principal Carrie Gast said Life Skills classes were taught to 7th and 8th grade students by VoAg teacher Carla Bland at Western schools last year.

“This is the first year that we’ve extended (Life Skills training) to this level,” Gast said.

Western schools hired Scott Caudill this year “for the (students) to get what they’re not getting in their regular core classes,” said Gast. “With the testing, the state requirements, our kids are missing out on all these other things that (classes such as home economics) used to give them.”

“We saw a real need for our students to have that background because we realized that they weren’t getting it,” said Gast. “And for years we felt like we do (provide the background) here and there, but is every kid getting it? Do we have a system where we know that, when they come out of here, they’re ready for the future? We wanted to ensure that the board of education, the superintendent, the teachers, everybody saw it as a need.”

Gast said Caudill will cover various aspects, such as personal finance, job skills, career and college development skills, as well as running a home and taking care of a vehicle.

Caudill is responsible for teaching all freshmen and most junior and senior students at Western. Western sophomores receive Life Skills instructions from three other teachers, (Nicholas) Hamilton, (Roger) Holbrook and (Tara) Reed, Gast said.

Hamilton and Reed typically teach social studies