The Northeast Kingdom is mostly small towns separated by miles and miles. Sometimes it’s featured in trout fishing magazines. It also has some of the highest unemployment and lowest wages in the state. Its beautiful place. And it’s a hard place to live.
I was up at the St. Johnsbury Academy a couple weeks ago, which is one of the gateways to the Kingdom. My sister and brother in law both work there. And I’ve always been curious about the career and technical classes at the school. They have the most incredible CTE facilities I’ve ever seen (pictures below), and what makes them really special is they’re all on campus. In a lot of places, ‘tech kids’ are bused off to other campuses…which, when you’re in high school, can’t help but send the message that kids in English class don’t need to know what those tech kids are doing, and the tech kids don’t need to bother much with English classes. But at the Academy, it’s all in one place, and 80% of the general school population takes CTE classes at least once in their high school careers.
After spending some time with students and teachers, I had that rare experience when you know you’re seeing something important…something that’s so obvious and right, that it’s almost hiding in plain sight.
If you listen to Rumble Strip, you know that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about problems. Big, complicated problems. So when I watched 19 kids in hard hats rewiring a building on their own school campus, I didn’t think, ‘well isn’t that nice?’ Instead, I felt like I was looking way upstream of all the problems, and seeing a solution. Not the only solution. Just…a solution. One solution.
This show is a kind of valentine to all the people learning to work in the world and learning to make things. And the people who are helping them to get there….
Music by Vermont musicians Brian Clark and Mike Donofrio
Thank you Emily Kueppers for your beautiful logging!
Wonderful episode, Erica, thank you! The enthusiasm of the kids is heartening, and the wisdom of the teachers is inspiring. Reminds me of Matthew B. Crawford’s book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, a book I highly recommend. I mostly worked in offices; I think my woodworking hobby as well as the evenings and weekends invested in remodeling our home was what kept me reasonably sane!
My recommendation: If you are in St J on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday have lunch at the Hilltopper Café. a café run by the students in Culinary Arts. The students do the cooking, baking, serving and everything related to running their own business. The food is excellent, the service is impeccable. The menu changes but always is to a particular theme. Reservations are not required but its reputation keeps it full, so be prepared.
phone: 802 748 4672
Yet another very informative episode. Thank you Erica.
this story is a ray of light in the present dark landscape in the usa.
the young people are so present, articulate, and aware of the large picture!
thanks to them, and their teacher, and you.
Thank you for noticing. This place is special and goes unnoticed for
the most part. I have worked here for twenty-five years teaching
Human Services and many of my students are now working in the various Human Services fields
around town. Our class includes time on internships around town and there
is an amazing feeling to see a student in a workplace environment working
side by side with area professionals. When you see them walk into a classroom
or daycare and see the children rush to them and hug their legs. These students
don’t always succeed in an academic class but thrive in a work environment.
Thank you for highlighting the value in our trades. It’s becoming more and more challenging to find skilled tradesman. And as they age out we are seeing a lack of people entering fields. I worry for the time when our go to mason finally retires (he’s in his 70’s). And if you have needed to find a plumber or electrician lately the waiting list is long.
This is the only pod-cast I’ve found during which I learn something about the world and about myself every episode. I laugh and I cry, sometimes both at once. Thanks Erica, for your thoughtful, compassionate, and brave story-telling!
Erica, I love this episode and I love your podcast. I love the heart and mind that sees these stories, interviews these people, records all this sound, takes all these pictures, and shares it all with the world, including me. Thank you.
Thank you for coming into our classrooms, recognizing the value of what we do in our CTE classes, and highlighting our students’ capabilities. As a Culinary Arts instructor at the Academy, I also found my direction because of the class I now teach. Like the students in the interview, I found what path I would follow because of CTE. My students are the reason my job is so enjoyable and fulfilling. I am truly a very fortunate and am grateful to be able to share what I have learned with others.
Outstanding story….other CTE models in Vermont include the full day model and the half-day model where students attend their home high school and the CTE center for parts of the day. All models have merit.