The Washington School District is continuing its Pathways for Teachers program. 

The team is comprised of teachers, counselors and principals from each building in the district.

Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said the program allows educators to connect with business and community partners, and that exposure expands their leadership capacity.

A kickoff event for this year’s group was held Thursday at the Bank of Washington building downtown and the Parker Hannifin Sporlan Division facility on Lange Drive.

VanLeer said the event went very well.

“This is our fourth team to participate under the Missouri Pathways Grant through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education,” she said. “We have 30 staff, comprised of both elementary and secondary teachers participating.”

At the Bank of Washington, the team was greeted by Jay Nowak, executive vice president, and Danielle Unnerstall, director of public relations.

The kickoff began with a presentation regarding “the why” behind the Missouri Career Pathways Initiative.

“Data was shared with the team illustrating skills needed in the future economy and the demands,” VanLeer explained. “Additionally, an analysis was provided about college debt, as well as an understanding regarding earning potential associated with further post-secondary education and the skills gaps that exist in today’s workforce.”

The team also was updated on where the district stands today regarding its career pathway initiative and the learning experiences officials want to create for students as they progress through their education — kindergarten through high school.

“Teachers were able to spend time thinking about what makes our students curious, motivated to acquire skills, interested in diving deep and passionate about learning,” VanLeer said.

“After this introduction to the big picture, the Bank of Washington provided an excellent presentation about the history of their bank and its inner workings in terms of jobs, regulation, technological changes, etc.,” she said. “Danielle did the presentation, and President Buzz Eckelkamp also came in to expand on the presentation and interact with our team. We appreciated their expertise and hospitality.”

After lunch, the team traveled to Parker/Sporlan to meet with several of their employees. Half of the team toured Sporlan’s headquarters and the other half toured the Plant 3 building.

“The tour was outstanding as we learned how their company and advanced manufacturing function,” VanLeer said. “Quickly, we witnessed how much they value their employees as they were observing Employee Appreciation Week.

“The plant was well organized and clean, and efficiency and quality was easy to observe,” she added. “Matt Mueller, Plant 1 manager, enlisted several staff to assist us upon our visit as we learned about advanced manufacturing, the demand for middle skills jobs and the magnitude of the Parker footprint.”

The next Pathways for Teachers team event is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 4.

VanLeer said the insight gleaned from these types of tours is “tremendous.”

“There is no better way to make career connections in the classroom than for teachers to experience life outside of school themselves,” she said. “They are then able to establish new business partners, incorporate soft skills in their lessons, make authentic connections within their curriculum, and plan projects that solve real world problems to ensure students develop the skills, awareness, and exposure necessary to make good college and career choices in the future.”