Are Educator Externships Worth My Summer? Building the Bridge Between Skills and Knowledge in the Classroom

Summer! Teachers and students live for it. The slower mornings and sleeping in. Time to recover and recharge. While we have transitioned over to autumn, football season, and time on campus here at IMAGO, we are still reflecting on our summer experiences.  Over the summer of 2022, IMAGO was able to host a teacher for an externship experience. 


Peter Chaney, a marketing, sales, and business teacher from Bullard High School in Fresno Unified School District joined us in our Fresno office for his summer externship program. We were thrilled to have Peter join us in our offices for a full workweek during his summer externship. 


Educator externships are professional development opportunities for teachers that allow them to immerse themselves in their industry of choice. All teachers, but especially career and technical education (CTE) teachers, can bring current industry standards back to the classroom through an externship experience. Externships keep teachers current and help them bring real-world experience back to the classroom. Externships are transformative for educators and students but it turns out, they are for industry as well! 


The Value of Real-World Learning 

Peter provided our office with invaluable information on what his students need today. For example, what standards schools are currently implementing, problems that students (our future workforce) are facing right now and opportunities to prepare this up-and-coming group of future employees. 


Especially post-pandemic, there are new challenges (as well as bright spots!) that these students have. While data is still being collected, we do know that as many as one in four students in the United States experienced hunger or economic instability during 2020, according to the CDC. As such, many older students went to work and got their first jobs in 2020 and 2021. This means that the students getting ready to graduate in the coming two years have had a jumpstart on workplace skills and they appreciate the value of work. It’s easy to imagine then that the students who managed through the pandemic would appreciate programs like CTE and the real-world learning opportunities it provides. 


Peter brought some key highlights to our company as to what his classroom needed as they transitioned back to being in the classroom full time. As an educational tech company, student feedback is obviously a critical component for us. But many industries can learn from what youth need and how their future workforce is being prepared. 

From Industry to Classroom 

Externships are frequently used to help teachers understand the current standards in their industry and stay up to date with best practices. They can be used to more effectively transmit information from industry to classroom and provide more impactful relationships with key stakeholders in industry. Typically, teachers choose their externship location, but they may also get support in locating an opportunity in their field. 


I have helped place culinary teachers with local restaurants and food production companies, engineering teachers with manufacturing companies, digital media teachers with production companies and even a law academy teacher into the legal field. Being back in an industry setting allows teachers to update their skillset and ensure they are preparing students with the critical skills needed to become the next highly skilled workforce. 


Networking Opportunities 

Impacting just one teacher has the potential to reach at least 100-350 students a year. Talk about an impactful professional development opportunity! Real-world learning for educators helps to strengthen their teaching skills by honing their practice and brings relevance to their direct instruction and student learning. 


During their externships, teachers frequently develop lesson plans that will implement hands-on learning experiences for their students. Other opportunities for real-world learning may be generated from these externships as well. These opportunities include guest speakers, implementation of industry standards into the classroom, job shadows or worksite tours for students and implementation of industry-focused curriculum. Educators are also compensated for their time during these externship opportunities. 


Peter’s students are planning a site tour at our IMAGO Fresno office in the coming month! We are excited to host these young marketing, sales, and engineering students soon. 


Some of the work we did with Peter was to review our current database of online lessons at IMAGO and storyboard new content. Peter filmed promotional materials with us and participated in workshops we held in our office. He was able to do an audit of our online lessons and ensure they met the CASEL-aligned Social Emotional competencies that he knows he wants to see in his students and the upcoming workforce. Peter reviewed lessons such as Brand Your Story, which is an effective tool to help students build their resumes, identify their strengths and create an elevator pitch. Through this work, he was able to map out the upcoming year of content for his classroom while heavily embedding IMAGO lessons.

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