Classroom connection

Teachers tour local businesses, learn about area careers

Shomo-Madsen Insurance President Bobby Shomo, right, leads a teacher externship tour of downtown Marshalltown Friday. The teachers learned about the damage done to businesses by the 2018 tornado and about the recovery process.

Summer break is winding down for thousands of area students, and several dozen teachers spent the week exploring local businesses to make connections with students when they come back to the classroom.

The teacher externship program, hosted by Marshalltown Schools, exposed more than 50 teachers to area career opportunities.

“We had four days of the externship, and we had six different experiences,” said Marshalltown Schools curriculum and professional development leader Dee Burt.

On Tuesday, the group toured advanced manufacturing facilities at Emerson, Marshalltown Company, Stover Controls and others.

The teachers then explored the local agriculture industry on Wednesday, touring Blood Dairy Farm near State Center and a Pioneer dealership, as well as the local JBS plant.

Kay Iverson, second from right, of Iowa River Hospice discusses the care patients and families receive at the facility.

One of the main themes for Thursday was health services, and the teachers toured the Iowa Veterans Home, Iowa River Hospice, UnityPoint Health — Marshalltown Medical Park and Marshalltown Community College simulation labs.

Another group took a closer look at local computer science and information technology needs Thursday. Marshalltown Company and RACOM Corp. opened their doors to give the teachers a window into the careers they have available.

The externship program wrapped up Friday with Shomo-Madsen Insurance President Bobby Shomo leading tours around the tornado-impacted downtown area. Meanwhile, a second group toured the Marshall County Courthouse, still actively under repair. Shomo had to speak up over the sound of a sandblaster echoing through Main Street that morning.

Alliant Energy also provided a tour of its training and generation areas.

“I think one of the biggest things I got out of it was learning more about the companies that are here in Marshalltown and just the different opportunities that are available to our students in the area,” said Miller Middle School teacher Shawna Hutchison. “I think a lot of times when they think of Marshalltown, they think of just the factories.”

For example, Hutchison said she was not aware of Marshalltown Company prior to the externship. She also learned about the importance of tech jobs in the nursing industry.

Marshalltown Schools teachers were not the only ones learning more about area business and industry. There were also teachers from BCLUW and South Tama County school districts watching, exploring and learning.

“I’m from southwest Iowa, so I honestly learned a lot about what jobs are around, what businesses are around,” said South Tama County High School science teacher Miranda Moen. “When my students talk about these businesses, now I’ll actually know what they’re talking about.”

Roberta Vanderah, also a science teacher, said it was a good experience for her to come down from BCLUW High School to learn more about local career opportunities.

“I also really want to get a STEM Best program going, so I went on this to get some network connections with people, to see what’s out there,” she said.

Connections in the classroom

One of the major purposes of holding the externship program a second year was to strengthen the partnerships between students and local employers.

“I got a lot of ideas for ways to take that science information and apply it to jobs in the area that these kids know about or might be thinking about going into,” Moen said.

Specifically, she said she learned about 3D printing careers and is excited to connect that with concepts in her science classes.

“In a world where we’re certain to start running out of resources or starting to get more limited, I think that’s awesome,” Moen said.

Hutchison said the agriculture day opened her eyes to many opportunities in the Marshalltown area.

Burt said the teachers were able to learn a lot this week, but their students will reap the most benefit from the experiences. She said the program is meant to support the district’s Bobcat Ready initiative, which seeks to prepare students for life after high school.

“We’re wanting them to think about life beyond high school and what career-specific learning experiences they need to be successful outside of high school,” she said. “We will continue to help build a culture of college and career readiness in our students.”

Along with the connections teachers bring to classrooms, Marshalltown students participate in job shadows, business tours and other activities to strengthen their connection with community businesses and industry.