Career and tech facility offers new avenue for high-schoolersMCTEA to open Monday
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
When the new Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy opens its Monday, it will signal a sea change attitude toward technical education. The programs that will be offered to high students through MCTEA — commonly pronounced “McTea,” as in “Mc” like McDonald’s and “tea” like the drink — will be nothing like your dad’s shop classes.
“The academy will provide opportunities and direction for students who may or may not be considering a four-year college degree,” said Denise Hoffman, the academy’s new, and first, director. The job marks Hoffman’s return to education. She previously taught 10 years at Second Chance High School, Mitchell’s alternative high school. Her first day was Aug. 1.
“These are the types of courses that can give students an advantage once they’re done with high school,” she said.
Perhaps more importantly, said Hoffman, the courses will give students a low-risk opportunity to test the vocational waters, “and to get an idea about what they enjoy, or what they prefer not to be doing.”
Initial class offerings will be in welding, the culinary arts and biomedical sciences.
The academy is operated by the Mitchell School District. Enrollment numbers for the academy are not available yet.
“There’s an increasing demand for these positions,” said Superintendent Joe Graves, “and we’ve got to do a better job of meeting public needs.”
The new academy is located in Mitchell Technical Institute’s north campus building on Capital Street, across the street from the high school. MTI has vacated much of the building as it consolidates on its south campus along Interstate 90.
Instructors will be hired by MTI and Hoffman will be MCTEA’s liaison with the K-12 issues associated with the program.
“The programs target students who want life skills,” Hoffman said. “They may or may not want to go on to college, but these are the types of courses that can give students an advantage in the job market once they’re done with high school.”
Officially, the classes are considered electives, so high school students enrolled in the academy will receive onehalf credit per semester toward graduation. The classes will give students who choose to continue their educations at MTI some advanced standing at that school.
Class semesters must be taken sequentially. In other words, students must take Welding 1 before taking Welding 2. Hoffman said the curriculum of each new program is built on information received and skills developed in prior classes.
Welding, a high-demand skill throughout the Mitchell area, will be taught by instructor Jed Schoenfelder. The program can handle a maximum of 18 students in each class, Hoffman said, and there will be five to six classes per semester. Initial enrollment has been strong, she said. The welding classes will stress safety and techniques in the use of machinery like grinders and plasma cutters and, over the course of four semesters, the use of oxy-acetylene, wire-feed and arc welding equipment, Hoffman said.
The culinary arts curriculum will be taught by Cindy Gerlach, who formerly taught family and consumer science at MHS. Gerlach and her students will remain at MHS for the first semester until workers finish renovations to the teaching kitchen at MCTEA.
The nationally accredited ProStart program is geared to students who may wish to consider a career in the restaurant business, with lessons in management, kitchen essentials, customer service, purchasing, inventory control and marketing.
“It’s pretty broad spectrum, “Hoffman said. “It’s not just teaching students how to cook; it also teaches about restaurant management and the associated skills needed to run a restaurant.”
The “Project Lead the Way” biomedical program covers principles of biomedical sciences, human body systems, medical interventions and biomedical interventions.
The program instructor will be Tricia Neugebauer, who teaches biology and physics at MHS.
Hoffman is a 1987 graduate of Mitchell High School. She graduated from Augustana College where she majored in math and secondary education.
During her 10 years at Second Chance High School she taught math, computer skills, accounting and environmental science.
She left a position in the agricultural loan division of Farm Credit Services in Mitchell to return to education.
“I learned that I missed education and I needed to get back to it,” she said. She and her husband Steve, who farms, have two daughters, Lily and Emma.
MCTEA will fill a strong need, Hoffman believes.
“I think some students are still looking for direction,” Hoffman said. “Without courses like these, they won’t have an opportunity to try any of these careers while they’re in high school, because these are not the types of careers that hire high school students.”
At MCTEA, students will get a chance to understand how learned skills translate to real-life situations, Hoffman said.
“They won’t be asking, ‘When am I ever going to use this?’ ”