Education column: Electives retooled for professional head start

Last week we reported on the remarkable culinary arts program, ProStart, at Clovis High School, offered through the Family and Consumer Sciences Department. For this week’s article, we revisited CHS to look at some of the other courses offered in the FCS department.

In recent years administrators have taken a hard look at elective courses and shifted directions somewhat so that electives offered could provide, as much as possible, applicability to the real world, teaching and learning that translated into practical skills and knowledge, that could lead to jobs and careers.

In Clovis High School’s Family and Consumer Sciences department, teachers took this directive very seriously. Department head Annetta Hadley, veteran teacher of 20 years, recently shared the process they went through. “We had a vision of being cutting edge in our department, preparing students for a career field, not just teaching traditional homemaking skills.”

They revamped their program, rewrote curricula and rebuilt the department, which sometimes included literal rebuilding, such as the remarkable “food lab,” a large, professional kitchen that serves as the classroom for the culinary arts classes as well as the baking classes. “Our food lab is licensed through the Department of Health, just like any public restaurant; that’s why we are able to do professional catering and sell foods on campus.” The students get a taste of what is entailed through catering and cooking projects, having to comply with the stringent rules and regulations established by the Health Department. The “ServeSafe” exam is an assessment used as one of the food safety certifications.

I found it very interesting that across the board, between the culinary arts classes and the baking classes (breads, desserts, and pastries), generally half the students were boys, and half were girls.

Other classes offered include clothing and fashion design, taught by Lisa Jo McCasland, where students are taught more than skills. In promoting creative and innovative design, McCasland shared that students really take ownership of their learning, and many actually sell some of their work. One former student now has a successful fashion business, specializing in wedding gowns, in Dallas. The Interior Design courses, also taught by McCasland incorporate many cross-curricular skills. If you drop by, ask Mrs. McCasland to show you the remarkable models students have built. The advanced Interior Design class is also articulated with Texas Tech University.

There are Pre-Teach courses for aspiring educators that not only teach the basics of education, but have students participate in observations at a partnering elementary school, under the guidance of Mrs. McCasland and the principal. Long time teacher, Ellen Gant, teaches a class in early childhood, which upon completion, provides an immediate professional certification that accounts for many of the qualified young people now working in the childcare industry locally and in other communities.

CHS’s Family and Consumer Sciences department is providing quality opportunities for our young men and women. How gratifying it must be for these teachers to hear back from so many of their former students who contact them regularly with stories and examples of their successes.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at cindy.kleyn-kennedy@clovis-schools.org