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Educators in the Workplace: Area companies give Roane teachers lessons in what students can expect

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While students were on vacation this summer, 76 educators from eight area school districts went to “summer school” visiting six businesses as part of the Educators in the Workplace program.

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“This program is beneficial for both the businesses and the teachers,” said Allen Lutz, education and workforce development specialist for The Roane Alliance, one of the program sponsors.

“Teachers benefit by learning ways to show students the relevance of what they teach in the classroom to workplace expectations and requirements,” he added.

“Businesses benefit by helping develop a skilled workforce in the future and making connections with teachers to further support the education of that workforce.”

Other program sponsors include four area Chamber of Commerce organizations and the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, a regional economic development organization.

This is the fourth consecutive year the program has served educators in the Innovation Valley region.

Educators from Roane, Blount, Knox and Loudon Counties and Oak Ridge visited Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TVA Kingston Fossil Plant, Toho Tenax America and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Roane County.

“The educators participating in this workplace program voice strong support for it to continue and expand,” said Lutz. “The teachers clearly see its value.”

Toho Tenax America has participated in the program for three years.

“Toho is very much engaged in increasing economic opportunities for our students and workforce,” said Leslie Henderson, president/CEO of The Roane Alliance. “In addition to their participation in the Educators in the Workforce program, Toho Tenax has been very supportive and involved in the establishment of the Advanced Materials Training and Education Center program which is providing career training and opportunities in our region.”

Many teachers recognize this involvement, too.

“With Roane County being the home of four of the six businesses participating in the Workplace program,” said Henderson, “it is clear the importance of being involved with educating our future workforce is understood by our businesses and Chamber members.”

Kingston Fossil Plant has twice participated in the program. Scott Wellman, plant operations manager, explained the process the plant uses to produce electricity.

Reviewing that process, from receiving coal to generating electricity, consisted of brief lessons in science, engineering, mathematics and computer science.

By describing the processing, Christian answered to the proverbial student question, “Is this stuff ever used in the real world?”

Teachers are often surprised by the wide range of academic disciplines that are required to operate these businesses. Every teacher can take away lessons from their visits to apply in the classroom.

“The chemistry involved would be great to teach in any high school science class,” said Rockwood High School teacher Jessica Alred. “I would love to have some of TVA’s outreach program individuals talk to my classes, especially environmental science students. Also, I am interested in bringing some students to tour the plant.”

The Kingston Fossil Plant has been in operation since it was completed in 1955. However, even after more than 50 years, area residents are still learning about its purpose.

“Having grown up in Roane County, I have often wondered exactly what went on at the Steam Plant,” wrote Margaret Johnson from Harriman High School. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to find out more about how this plant operates. I will certainly pass this knowledge along to my students.”

In addition to Alred and Johnson, Roane County Schools educators participating in the program were Suzan Burnett. Donna Cheek, Sherri Dickens, Phyllis Jackson, Paula Langley, Whitney Moore, Tammy Rogers, Janet Sather, Larry Sather, Beth Snipes, Emily Snyder, Rhonda Swallows, Robert Varagona, Teresa Woods, and Tammy Workman.

“Great experience!” is how Varagona summarized the Educators in the Workplace program.