Superintendent: Career Technical Education surpasses expectations

Career Technical Education instructor Kenny Ingalls helps one of his students to perfect trade skills. Ingalls is a success story for SHUSD after it embraced non-college track options for students.
Career Technical Education instructor Kenny Ingalls helps one of his students to perfect trade skills. Ingalls is a success story for SHUSD after it embraced non-college track options for students. Southern Humboldt Unified School District -- contributed
At a recent trade expo, Career Technical Education instructor Kenny Ingalls shows off some of his students’ handmade items. Ingalls teaches trade classes at South Fork and Miranda high schools.
At a recent trade expo, Career Technical Education instructor Kenny Ingalls shows off some of his students’ handmade items. Ingalls teaches trade classes at South Fork and Miranda high schools. Southern Humboldt Unified School District -- contributed

Much of public schooling today is designed to prepare students to go to college, but not everyone is on a college track. Our district recognizes the need to prepare students for life beyond school, and our Career Technical Education program helps us do just that.

Four years ago, the school board and I worked hard to reinstate our wood shop and metal shop classes, and were only able to do so thanks to financial assistance from the Humboldt County Office of Education. HCOE gave SHUSD more than a quarter of a million dollars to cover personnel costs, upgrade the welding shop and wood shop, and purchase technology and supplies.

The second year after we started the program, the shop teacher had to go out on medical leave, so we brought in a substitute. The substitute didn’t have much shop experience, so we asked a local machinist to help out.

Kenny Ingalls, a South Fork High School graduate, volunteered to teach the substitute some basic shop procedures and tool safety. Ingalls thought he’d help out for a few weeks at most, but months later he was still volunteering. He really liked the classroom environment.

At the end of the school year, the permanent shop teacher resigned and we asked Ingalls if he would be interested in becoming a CTE instructor. Thanks to the CTE program, his technical education and work experience made him eligible for this special credential.

STUDENT BECOME TEACHER

When he was younger, Ingalls didn’t enjoy school and only attributes his interest in a college shop class to a friend’s encouragement. Once he took that College of the Redwoods class, however, he was hooked. Inspired by the ability to make things, he pursued an associate degree, graduating with highest honors.

When Ingalls was informed by SHUSD that he could become our industrial arts teacher, he took on the challenge with enthusiasm. He brushed up on the few additional skills he needed to build a robust program, and he spent hours learning to use and repair the expensive machinery in the school’s shop.

Today, Ingalls teaches students in junior high and high school, offering three sections of wood shop and two sections of welding, plus an introductory junior high shop class. The courses can only accept 16 students per class to keep everyone safe and make sure students get enough time with the tools. And Ingalls depends on student teaching assistants to keep an eye on the less experienced students. His classes have a waiting list.

He is building a curriculum that meets the rigorous CTE standards, including doing his best to connect students with internships in the community. He says it’s difficult to find enough internships because our communities do not have many metal and carpentry businesses, but those who do are often willing to take on student interns.

WHO BENEFITS FROM THE TRAINING?

Last year, almost all South Fork High students who submitted projects at the annual Redwood Acres Youth Expo in Eureka received awards for their work. One female student won her category and was able to sell her sculpture.

Ingalls told me he likes having diversity of genders in the program. They often approach the work a bit differently, he explained, and always come up with really impressive projects. He personally bought a nightstand from one of his students because he liked it so much.

This year, he plans to take students to the Expo again. He envisions his students competing in Humboldt County’s spring tradition, the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race one day. Until he can afford to support that, he’ll continue to break his classes into teams and let them compete on campus.

HOW IS THIS FUNDED?

Funding is always a difficult topic, but Ingalls takes that in stride, too. This year, he asked experienced students to use some left-over wood to make cutting boards and sell them to raise money to buy new class materials. And when he explained his plight to the parents, many of them donated to the program.

Ingalls recently invited a representative from the nationwide trade school Universal Technical Institute to speak to his students.

“Part of CTE includes planning ahead, thinking about career options. Some of these students may decide technical school is a better fit than a traditional four-year college. I want to introduce them to as many options as possible,” Ingalls said.

I am so pleased we’ve been able to bring back industrial arts classes to the students of Southern Humboldt, and I’m even more pleased to have found Mr. Ingalls, whose dedication and enthusiasm will grow the program for generations of trade professionals.

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