Round Rock Teachers Clocking In For Externship Program

By: Christine Bolanos / Austin American Statesman

There are many communities that stand by the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” and Round Rock is no exception.

The Round Rock school district and Round Rock Chamber has taken that adage to heart by partnering in a summer externship program. The program has career and technical education teachers gain industry experience and bringing that knowledge back into the classroom.

“It’s almost a subtle thing, but it really allows the teacher, educator or instructor to speak about the real world in a more firsthand personal testimony,” said Lucy Sanchez, CTE academy specialist at Westwood High School. “It’s invaluable because any time students are inspired by relevancy, the students are going to be more focused and appreciative of lessons in their classrooms.”

Round Rock teachers clocking in for externship program photo

She said many times classroom lessons focus on a theoretical impact. But an externship program allows the educator — and indirectly, the student — to see the connection between a concept and its real impact.

“Points and concepts that matter for industry are going to improve the education of the classroom and are also going to create better workers,” Sanchez said.

As an educator learns more about a particular business, Sanchez said, it allows students a more realistic viewpoint of a career — and whether or not they would be happy pursuing that career. “Happier workers make a more successful company, which benefits the whole region,” she said.

Chamber representatives said they understand the value of a strong education system and the positive effects of that system on economic development.

“We are extremely interested in opportunities that strengthen our partnership with the school district,” said Monica Martinez Maher, vice president of community enhancement at the Round Rock Chamber. “Talent development is a critical part of the chamber’s mission, and Round Rock ISD plays a pivotal role in the community’s talent pipeline.”

The first externship program held last summer included an architecture firm, an optometrist, a film school, a statewide association, a robotics company and the chamber.

“What happens in the classroom now affects what will happen in the workplace later,” Maher said. “For this reason, it is important to equip students with both the technical and soft skills needed in the workplace before they enter the job market.”

One benefit of the externship program, Maher said, is readying students to later contribute to the local workforce by establishing a “talent pipeline.”

Maher encouraged local businesses to participate in the externship program.

“Educators are looking for meaningful professional development experiences that will enhance their teaching, and those experiences can be found in industries that may differ from educators’ subject matter areas,” she said.