Mar. 13—DANVILLE — For most of the school year, the teachers in Danville High's Career and Technical Education have been trying to teach students from remote.
But recently, the teachers have started with teaching 50 students in person, which is a welcomed breath of fresh air to all of the CTE teachers.
"In order to bring students back, a ton of mitigation factors have to be put in place," CTE chair Dan Hile said. "We spent a lot of resources for PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), which these guys have been dealing with for years. With the help of local vendors like Depke, Lowe's and Danville Paper, we have been able to bring kids here quicker that we thought. I am proud of them because they brought in a comprehensive plan that we brought to the board in February and we got the thumbs up on it and we have gotten them back for the last three weeks."
The CTE teachers include Jason Boehm, who teaches Computer-aided design; Clint Rebman, who teaches automotive; Joe Wernert, who teaches welding and fabrication; John Greenhalgh, who teaches woodshop and GeoCON with math teacher Christopher Moller and Greg Hilleary, who mainly helps in the Intro to Careers in Technology classes. Boehm and Rebman team up for Project Lead the Way, which provides transformative learning experiences for students.
Each section of the CTE space has special places for students to put on their PPE for training. The outfits and helmets are places in a numbered bag. For welding and auto, the bags are on special racks. For woodshop, there are in a special clean room.
"This was just an old place where they would change clothes for auto shop, but we were able to reclaim it," Greenhalgh said. "It looks really fantastic in there now. It works out where they can get their backpack and hang it in an anti-germ room and it is a nice addition."
Wernert is in his second year at Danville, but with Covid messing up his first year, he is starting from scratch in getting everything ready for his students.
"This is my second year and getting everything the way we want it has been a problem," Wernert said. "But Dan and everyone has been helpful to make sure that the kids are safe post Covid and make sure this shop is top notch. I have enough tables to set up to weld and as I get more people in, we will get more ready."
During the online learning period, he has taught the basics of welding and says the students have enjoyed it but they are ready to work.
"We can talk about blueprints and the background of things and most of my intermediate class has OHSA 10 training and the advanced kids have had that training last year, so they looked at material properties and different types of steel and it is good information for them," Wernert said. "I am thankful on the 18th, they will come in and we will get them on the stick welders immediately."
Rebman said that challenges were plentiful when the pandemic hit and has been impressed with what the school board has done to help him with those challenges.
"They say the first two years of teaching was the hardest and I feel like a first year teacher again," Rebman, who is in his sixth year of teaching, said. "Each day brings something that you have never come across, and it is challenging and stressful. But every day I gain confidence and I feel better every day.
"I think there is a lot of tools and skills that I will use for the rest of my career. It challenges me to use hybrid skills that I think I will use to make me a better teacher for the rest of my career, so there are silver linings. I am proud of my district. I live in Champaign, but I am proud of working in this building in this district."
Greenhalgh, Hilleary and Moller share time in the work area of wood shop, where they are finally giving students the chance to actually work on things instead of observing.
"Coming into contact for them has been tough and these students wanted the classes where they could touch stuff and then we had to teach them online," Greenhalgh said. "It is wonderful to see them back here and manipulate material. It is a little more regimented, but they are back."
"It's great to have the students back in the morning and hope we can have more," Hilleary said. "They are learning about the angles and learning to put a slope on a roof. We have the most students that are here in the mornings with 36 that will come in in various times of the day."
Students will work on things like the CNC Router and a new tool that will make chopsticks.
"It starts with a seven millimeter piece of wood and the device we have is cool and we have a rack and we start planning it and we can. It will be a nice little tool to work with," Hilleary said. "We have some awesome equipment, but the coolest is the CNC Router where you program like CAD and you transfer that program to the machine and it will run the router and you can create a lot of stuff."
Also, Greenhalgh wants to make things more movable for everyone in the shop.
"I am trying to make it modular, in that we have machines with wheels and I hope to get tables with wheels," Greenhalgh said. "The goal is to give people more space and when one class is done, we can open up space for another class."
But what Greenhalgh, who worked in industry in Gibson City before teaching, said that the future is what is important for the students.
"We are not teaching what I learned 20 years ago, we are teaching what they need 20 years from now," Greenhalgh said. "It is a tough battle, but the school and the board supports us well. They ask me what do you need and they get it for me, like a sanitizer that I use to sanitize the tools and everything after classes. It might be a couple of years when they might pick up a hammer again, but they are learning a lot and having fun."
Moller came up with the idea for the Geo-Con class, which uses geometry to help with building things.
"Three years ago, Dan and I was in the same seminar and a couple of guys from the north suburbs told about the class and I told Dan about it and he said let me hire someone that can help you with the class," Moller said. "It ties the mathematics with practical applications and the kids love that. A major complaint is when am I going to use this. We give them the opportunity to see that it does have useful applications. We are not expecting them to perfect things; we expect them to see if they can apply what they learned at the right time."
In some ways, Boehm has had it the easiest since with CAD, it was mostly based on computers anyway, but he will be ready to expand very soon and go from an upstairs computer lab to the RPM lab down in the CTE area.
"If they have a laptop with the inventor program, it works. The RPM lab that we have here is massive, so when the kids are doing stuff, they will have little stations, they can go to when you are doing stuff with glue," Boehm said. "We are planning to go downstairs and have the room split with the 3-D printers, and my tools and against the all is the computers they can go at."
Each teacher has had a challenge through most of the online learning period, but is happy about getting students back or is eager to have more students return.
"I can get behind working for a place that puts their money where their mouth is," Greenhalgh said. "Our people are here for our students and this district is concerned with our students and it shows with how the teachers are working. I am thankful that we have come full circle and I can see my students again."