Monday, 26 September 2022

Putting Students First: Getting students ready for the real world

Kelseyville Unified Superintendent Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. — No matter how qualified you may be for a new opportunity, it can be intimidating to go for it — especially if you’ve never filled out an application, don’t have a resume, and the idea of answering interview questions makes you panic.

This is the situation many of our students find themselves in at some time or another.

To make the transition to life after high school a little easier, our Career Technical Education, or CTE, teacher, Donelle McCallister, took a page from the Future Farmer of America handbook and created an interview competition for Kelseyville High School CTE students.

She invited students to apply for one of the sample jobs that aligned with their CTE pathway: agriscience, ag mechanics, woodworking, digital media and hospitality/culinary.

Then she asked a bunch of us teachers and administrators, including our county superintendent of schools, to serve as judges. I have to say, the whole event was a huge success.

More than 100 students started the process by submitting a resume and cover letter. Many quickly learned how important it is to get the details right, including spelling. If the only thing someone has to go on is what you put on paper, that information had better be good.

The top applicants were then invited to complete a job application, and the top finishers from that phase were invited back for a 10-minute personal interview.

We asked students about their skills and experience, as well as dropping in questions that tested their ability to think on their feet, for example, having to do basic calculations in their head. It’s one thing to perform well when you’re calm and relaxed. It’s a very different thing when you’re nervous.

Kelseyville High School Principal Mike Jones and I were two of the 12 judges, and we agreed that some of the interview questions might have stumped us for a second, but most of the students didn’t miss a beat. They answered with poise and professionalism.

One of the things we talk about a lot in education is “college and career readiness.” In addition to academic skills, it is often the soft skills (or interpersonal skills) that open doors. If a brilliant artist is too shy to talk to another human being, his art may never find an audience. If a student loves math and science but struggles to explain why, she may never be able to connect with people who could help her use those disciplines in her future.

It’s hard to put ourselves in situations where we might fail, but experience is a great teacher and it is better for students to learn where they need to grow when they are applying for a job as part of a competition, as opposed to a job in the real world. I am proud of these students who took a risk and grew from their experience.

The top three finishers in the competition were Iyali Aguirre, Diana Cortez and Madelyn Madrzyk.

Madelyn said, “I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given to be able to compete in the competition. As someone who has never been in a job interview, the experience I have gained in this competition is going to benefit me tremendously in my future careers. I would like to thank the teachers and judges who made this competition possible and congratulate all of the other competitors on their success.”

It’s pretty clear from her thoughtful comment why she was one of the top finishers.

I want to thank Donelle McCallister for organizing the event and to both Jeff and Donelle for offering a $250 scholarship to the first-place finisher.

I also want to thank ag mechanics instructor Maille McCallister from Elsie Allen High School for creating the laser-etched water bottles as prizes, and all the judges who took hours out of their busy schedules to invest their time and expertise to help our students.

As adults, it is up to us to give young people a chance to spread their wings, to see what they are capable of. If you have opportunities in your workplace where high school students could learn new skills, please reach out to our Career Technical Education Department. Let’s help our students soar.

Dave McQueen is superintendent for Kelseyville Unified School District.

Upcoming Calendar

27Sep
09.27.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
27Sep
09.27.2022 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
28Sep
09.28.2022 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Levee and flood risk workshop
29Sep
09.29.2022 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
1Oct
10.01.2022 7:00 am - 11:00 am
Sponsoring Survivorship annual walk and run
1Oct
10.01.2022 8:00 am - 2:00 pm
Konocti Challenge
1Oct
1Oct
10.01.2022 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
1Oct
10.01.2022 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
20th annual Falling Leaves Quilt Show

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