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Lenoir County Public Schools: About LCPS middle schools Teachers@Work grant gives pair Grade A opportunity

Teachers@Work grant gives pair Grade A opportunity

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Two Woodington Middle School teachers will get hands-on training this summer that will help them – and, by extension, their students – better relate to the skills young people need to acquire and be successful in jobs with local business and industry.

Sarah Neider, Woodington’s STEM Center facilitator, and science teacher Tiera Jones will work a week next month at Chef and the Farmer restaurant. To prepare, they sat down on Monday for OSHA training and an introduction to Lean Six Sigma, a lean manufacturing process that stresses teamwork and efficiency.

They are two of 51 middle and high school teachers selected for the Teachers@Work program, a joint initiative of the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE), the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, STEM East and the N.C. Community College System. The program is funded by grants from Biogen, GSK, State Farm and the Golden LEAF Foundation.

“They are connecting businesses in our community with schools in our community to teach us teachers hard skills and soft skills within that business that we will be able to take back to our schools and teach,” Neider said.

Hard skills are those usually associated with learning in school, such as math and writing. Soft skills could also be called social or interactive skills – business etiquette or the ability to talk to people and work well in groups, for instance.

Neider expects to spend time in several different areas of Chef and the Farmer’s business environment because the variety mirrors her classroom, where teams of students rotate through a series of introductions to 14 different STEM-related vocations during a semester.

Jones, however, wants to spend most of her time in the restaurant’s kitchen. “The cooking aspect relates a lot to the sixth-grade science curriculum,” she said. “Convection, conduction, radiation, the pot touching the burner, feeling the heat from the burner – those kinds of things relate.”

At the end their time at the restaurant, to run from July 11-15, Neider and Jones will each create a lesson plan that showcases both hard and soft skills needed by future employees that are specific to the business. Woodington students are also scheduled to participate in a job shadowing or job mentoring program with Chef and the Farmer in the spring as a follow-up to the Teachers@Work experience.

“Teachers know the hard skills to teach their students, but they also need to see first-hand how those skills are being used in their local businesses,” Sue Breckenridge, Executive Director of NCBCE, said. “This will help them make more relevant connections for their students so that learning is about real-world applications and not abstract ideas.”

Neider and Jones meet earlier with Ben Knight, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Chef Vivian Howard, manages the business side, to get an idea of what they needed to learn and help the restaurant structure a work schedule. Chef and the Farmer has been involved for the past two years in the Lenoir STEM Math Symposium that LCPS offers in conduction with East Carolina University. Middle School math teachers have visited the restaurant to get a feel for the practical application of math in the restaurant, from the kitchen to the reservation desk.

“We’ll absorb as much as we can,” Neider said. “I’m excited. We’ll be able to make this a connection point with Chef and the Farmer. If we want to bring people from there into the classroom and have them talk about the science of cooking or temperature or whatever or have the front hostess come in, we’ll have that connection. In the long run, it’s going to be awesome.”