Program Will Help Teach Educators

Program will help teach educators

by: Brad Stutzman / Round Rock Leader

In today’s classrooms and workplaces, nothing changes so fast as the accelerated pace of change itself. Educators and employers each believe ongoing training is key. With that in mind, the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce and school district are embarking on an “externship” partnership, aimed at placing school personnel with counterparts in the community.

The idea is to match secondary-school teachers, counselors and administrators with community members who work in the same or similar disciplines.

Chamber President and CEO Mike Odom said the goal is to help educators take relevant and up-to-date real world experiences back to their classrooms. This, in turn, is meant to better prepare students for future jobs and careers. “If there is a breakthrough in physics, the physics teacher knows it,” Odom said by way of example. “But the physics teacher might not know how it is used in the bio-tech industry.”

Odom – who outlined the program’s goals during a chamber luncheon earlier this year – said Round Rock ISD Superintendent Steve Flores initiated the discussions. “Dr. Flores brought this to our attention,” Odom said. “He created a similar program when he was with the Harlingen school district.”

Signups started April 13 and continue through May 15. Odom is the chamber’s point of contact, while his school district counterpart is Career and Technical Education Director Sheri Bonds.

“Our hope is that any secondary teacher, counselor or administrator can have the opportunity go get out in the business community, create a partnership and bring that back into their classroom,” she said. Bonds said the program is open to educators who work with students in grades 6-12. The goal is to get 20 participants the first year and then expand the program – for more educators and all grade levels – in future years.

Earlier this month, Odom said so far community members from the fields of medicine, architecture and journalism have signed on.

Externships will be for one week during the summer. “Monday to Friday, whatever their business hours are and the educators are shadowing the business team, just to go through the day-to-day operations and experiences,” Odom said. “We are asking the business to commit a $250 stipend for the instructor.” Odom said he is encouraging community members from all walks of life to participate: blue collar, white collar or no collar at all – it doesn’t matter. Participants do not even have to be Chamber of Commerce members.

“Public sector, private sector, it’s anyone,” he said. “We want the city to participate as well. The school system teaches government and public administration.”
School and community members will be matched by fields of expertise but the match doesn’t have to be exact, Odom said.

For instance, a journalism teacher might want to shadow police officers or prosecutors, so they can better prepare students who want to be reporters covering the criminal justice system.

Odom said externships are different from traditional internships, which are typically for students who are still in school or who have just graduated.“In an internship you are trying to get into a career,” he explained. “It [an externship] isn’t trying to get somebody ready for a job. They already have a job. This is to improve the skills they already have.”

“When our teachers come back, we are asking them to share what they have learned with their peers,” Bonds stated.

For more externship information, community members should contact Odom at 512-255-5805 or modom@roundrockchamber.org.

School personnel may contact Bonds at 512-464-5128 or sheri_bonds@roundrockisd.org.