As the new school year commences, our Excellence in Action award winners are hard at work, improving upon the great work that earned them our annual commendation in their respective Career Cluster®.
Tolsia High School’s Rebel Construction — part of West Virginia’s innovative Simulated Workplace initiative – is already actively building on last year’s success. The beginning of this school year saw visits from U.S. Department of Labor officials, as well as administrators from Workforce West Virginia curious to see Rebel Construction in action. (Story here.)
Wrapping the 2013-2014 school year as the most profitable of the Simulated Workplace program pilot in the state, Tolsia’s success has enhanced its already stellar reputation among West Virginia CTE programs. An early adopter of the initiative, Tolsia has set the standard for expansion schools joining in 2014-2015.
“I have spoken with representatives from several other schools seeking information on how we do things,” said CTE teacher and program lead Hugh Roberts. “Many instructors and administrators are apprehensive about getting started, but once they get into it, they find Simulated Workplace isn’t so different from what we already do in any successful program. After the first year of the pilot, my advice is to embrace students becoming partners in the operation of a CTE program. It is a huge step in changing from a teacher centered environment to a student centered learning environment and may be the most daunting for incoming programs. Students taking an active leadership role learn what it is like for their choices to have impact. It’s a new and beneficial kind of learning.”
That new learning appears to be paying dividends in student performance. One Tolsia carpentry student won the SkillsUSA West Virginia Carpentry State Championship, an honor that won him a coveted apprenticeship through Carpenters Local 302 out of nearby Huntington, WV. An archetype for a career pathway, that student’s experience is one component of broader collaboration through Tolsia carpentry/Rebel Construction, West Virginia Carpenters and SkillsUSA.
He is not the only student who has had success as a result of the program, however. Mr. Roberts acknowledges a pointed change in his relationship with students after graduation.
“In the past, I would only hear from students occasionally after graduation. Last year’s graduates developed a line communication with me through text and email through the call in process to report absences.” As a result, he says, he’s been able to actively help students as they move onto the next step in life, whether that means looking for a job or pursuing more schooling.
Nor were we the only ones to recognize Tolsia’s success last year. As a result of its success in the Simulated Workplace program, the West Virginia State Board of Education is recognizing Mr. Roberts and Rebel Construction as a standout program, and there’s plenty more upcoming for the Architecture and Construction Career Cluster award winners.
“It seems like I have never stopped in recent weeks!” Mr. Roberts said.
Evan Williamson, Communications Associate