By Meg Peters
Lake Orion High School senior Cassidy Doane is 100 percent sure she is going to be a teacher when she “grows up.”
Her two favorite Lake Orion teachers, Mrs. Barnes and Mrs. Bowman, are her inspiration.
“Out of all the teachers in the school, they’ve taught me the most about the career field. They’re super nice and always open to their students,” Doane said.
Julie Barnes has taught at Lake Orion High School for 13 years. Barnes and her partner in crime, Amy Bowman, who has taught for 18 years, run the largest Career Technical Education (CTE) program for education in the state. Nearly 40 districts offer state-approved CTE programs for general education.
Their Future Educators Program sees over 200 students a year, offers six electives focused on education, and just won a prestigious award.
On May 3, Barnes and Bowman will accept the 2016 Outstanding CTE Program for having the most comprehensive and opportunistic curriculum in Oakland County.
“It’s hard to make me speechless, but it almost makes me speechless,” Barnes said. “It’s exciting to know what we are doing is working, but it’s also something that Amy and I are both just passionate about and love doing.”
Barnes started the program in 2010 after she saw a need for a something tailored to students interested in education careers.
“We’ve got business classes, we’ve got art, but there was this large population who wanted to go into teaching, coaching and counseling,” she said.
So she started the Future Educators program, and the after-school club, Education Rising, to fill the void.
Students interested in teaching careers can take Child Development, Teacher Cadet, Fresh Start Cadet, Exploring Special Education in Today’s Schools, Next Steps and Teaching Field Experience.
Doane has taken them all.
She just completed her Teaching Field Experience as a third-grade assistant at Rogers Elementary School in the Pontiac district.
“I got to see teaching, and actually do it myself instead of learning about it in a textbook,” she said.
In her Fresh Start Cadet class she mentored at-risk freshmen.
“We’ve got all sorts of great friends through that class.”
A new class for at-risk sophomores will be offered next year too.
In another important class to Doane, Exploring Special Education, she also made several lasting relationships with special needs students at the high school. She spent 45 minutes every day working with cognitively impaired students, or students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“They’re not just learning about autism, they are living it,” Bowman said.
Bowman said it’s not just the variety of classes that students can choose from that sets this program apart, but the variety of experiences students get from each class.
Many young teachers go Christmas shop with their special needs friends, paint, and even join them in the many events and dances offered throughout the community. Students can also elect to work with at-risk students in any of the elementary or middle schools of Lake Orion, where mentoring the kids becomes more like being their big brother or sister.
“I think the amount of students we have that want to help and work with the at-risk students, and the CI and ASD students in our district is a great reflection of the district overall,” Bowman said.
Future Educator Program students can also receive college credit for certain classes at the high school, and even have the opportunity to take the Basic Skills test all teachers in the state of Michigan must take before earning their certificate.
Six students at LOHS are taking the test this year. LOHS, which receives additional funding for being a CTE, or vocational school, pays for each student to take the test. So far three have passed.
“One thing we strive to put out there over and over again is that we’re not trying to convince kids to be teachers,” Barnes said. “It’s more just giving them the opportunity to explore what teaching involves, and letting the students make the decision for themselves.”
By Meg Peters