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Career Pathways in Deer River is entirely ‘hands-on’ | News

Continuing the Itasca Area Schools Collaborative (IASC) Next Career Pathways series, we will highlight individual schools and communities. For this last part, we will focus on the community of Deer River. Student Tia Schultz; agricultural education teacher Hannah Eckblad; and Amber Kongsjord of RK Construction and Llyod’s Landscaping shared their insights on participating in the Career Pathways program.

Eckblad officially began her teaching career in the 2019-2020 school year at Deer River. However, his passion for teaching started long before that.

“I wanted to be a teacher since I could speak,” Eckblad explained. “So when I got into high school, I got involved in FFA, and because of those hands-on experiences and the ability to see opportunities beyond school, I really wanted to give that to the kids. So naturally , I just turned to agricultural education after that.

Eckblad also worked as a camp counselor after high school. She has worked at a Bible camp in Wisconsin and at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minnesota. It was another chance for her to see how well-suited she would be for a career in teaching.

“By working with kids, giving them different hands-on opportunities at camp, and seeing their faces light up as they learned things, I knew I was on the right career path. And there is no doubt in my mind that this is where I want to be for the rest of my life.

Part of the Natural Resources and Agriculture pathways, Eckblad teaches a wide range of courses in Deer River. Topics include wildlife, forestry, food science, plants, animals, and more. Eckblad also runs the Deer River FFA Chapter and was able to take students to the state’s FFA Convention for the first time this year.

Eckblad had an interesting start to her teaching career as the world shut down and schools moved to distance learning in her first year of teaching. This continued into his second year of teaching with distance and blended learning models. Finally, this current school year has brought some sense of normalcy back to its classrooms and with that comes greater excitement from its students.

“Being able to see the kids getting excited again because last year it was hard to do anything. No matter what it was,” Eckblad said.

A good example of this was when Eckblad students came to her with the idea of ​​creating a Chapter Driving Team, which falls under the FFA’s parliamentary competition arm. Eckblad, who was an avid participant in parliamentary procedure as a high school student, was willing and able to support these students.

With the past two school years altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus on the Career Pathways program had to take a back seat. However, Eckblad shared that students pay attention to what career paths are and what courses are needed to follow a particular path when choosing their courses.

“They read them, they pay attention, and there are kids who want to have that little check that they’ve gone through the career path,” Eckblad said.

Hands-on experiences are an essential pillar of the Career Pathways program. Eckblad works with its students to choose a work-based learning project that will match their career interests. Some students get part-time jobs, some do job shadowing, and one student even started his own landscaping business. The main purpose of these is to help students try out new things.

“Seeing them get interested in things they didn’t know they were interested in is super fun,” Eckblad said.

Looking to the future, Eckblad is excited about the upcoming FFA banquet where students will be recognized for their achievements. As for next year, she looks forward to having a new hydroponics system, where plants can grow in just water and a nutrient system, ready for her classes to learn. Eckblad hopes that the collaborative aspect of Career Pathways will also continue to grow in the future.

“One of my favorite parts of Career Pathways is this collaborative piece,” Eckblad said. She continued: “If we team up with local schools and do what we do well, and drop by a few students so they can find out what interests them, that will increase opportunities for students and that’s our ultimate goal.”

Tia Schultz, a tenth grade student, has taken courses in the health and education streams. Being able to learn more about the different careers she is interested in has already helped clarify what she might do in the future.

“I used to be really determined to be a nurse or a doctor, and I think now it’s not something I want to do,” Schultz said.

As part of the courses in the educational path that Schultz has taken, students choose a teacher who will be their mentor to observe the work. She chose her mother, Kari Schultz, who is a special education teacher in Deer River schools. Tia shared that she was able to work with students in her mother’s class, and even though the class is over, she still enjoys going to her mother’s class every day.

“I don’t think I ever thought I wanted to get into something like teaching or special education before, but now I love it,” Tia said.

Tia also mentioned that she really enjoyed learning from her teacher Sondra Tokarczyk, an educational coach and career exploration instructor in education. In her Education Journey classes, she learned more about the specifics of becoming a teacher, what the job entails, how much schooling is needed, and more. Beyond that, she did job shadowing, independent research, and other pursuits. Tia said being able to work with people in person, rather than learning remotely, has been nice.

“It was actually really nice, getting to know some of the other people and interacting with them,” Tia said.

This summer, Tia plans to work as a cabin cleaner and coach for the Grand Rapids Special Olympics softball team. Although she still has a few years left in high school, she believes the experience of trying a career path has helped her find new interests.

“I really liked the Career Paths course we had to take. Just because you don’t really know. You don’t really have any experience. You kind of have a general idea of ​​what you want to do in high school, but if you have no way to test those things and work your way out,” Tia commented. “I think it gives you a better idea of ​​what you want to do.”

Amber and Lloyd Kongsjord own Marcell-based RK Construction and Llyod’s Landscaping, and their children attend schools in Deer River. Additionally, the two do a lot of coaching for the Deer River FFA team and work specifically with the nursery and landscaping teams once a week.

“The kids who were part of the nursery and landscaping team came and worked for us,” Amber explained. “They came to experience it.”

While hands-on experience for students is beneficial, it can be difficult for companies to take time out of their schedule to work with students.

“It’s an interesting place where we work because it’s very seasonal. You have to make a living in such a short time, but sometimes you just have to slow down and reach out to the younger generation and teach them,” Amber said. “I think that’s the hardest thing for businesses to stop and do.”

However, Amber added that they continue to learn alongside the students when working with them. She also sees the benefits of giving students the chance to try something new.

“It’s about being able to bring the experience to the kids,” Amber said. “You need those experiences and I think that’s the biggest key to any career path. Without experience, it’s really hard to know if you’re going to enjoy this.

Whether or not the student finds their dream career while working through Career Pathways, there is sure to be something they can take away from the experience.

“Kids who learn this, they can keep it forever,” Amber said. “It’s a great reward to transmit our passion to young children and perhaps to make it their passion. I think that’s the biggest thing we take away from it.

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