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Welcome, November! 

Roanoke Rapids Graded School District began the week with two teacher work days, and Wednesday brought our students back to second quarter and cooler temperatures! 

While we are thankful for the opportunities to close out student grades, engage in professional development, and plan lessons on work days, we miss our students when they are not in the building, and I was excited to visit with some of them in their classrooms this week as they jumped back into the second quarter.

In this week’s column, I want to highlight a specific program that we have at Chaloner Middle School and Roanoke Rapids High School: Career and Technical Education. 

While you might be more familiar with the terms “vocational education” or “vo-tech” classes, our students know them as CTE. 

RRGSD offers CTE classes that are grouped into eleven career clusters: 

(1) agriculture, food, and natural resources 

(2) architecture and construction 

(3) business management and administration

(4) health science

(5) hospitality and tourism

(6) human services

 (7) law, public safety, corrections, and security 

(8) manufacturing

(9) marketing 

(10) science, technology, engineering & mathematics

(11) transportation, distribution & logistics 

Just a few of the classes we have been offering include Food and Nutrition, Carpentry, Business Essentials, Health Science, Hospitality and Tourism, Sales, Counseling and Mental Health, Entrepreneurship, Public Safety, Emergency Medical Technology, Law and Justice, and Business Management. We have fifteen teachers and two support staff.

CTE courses are hands-on, are connected to careers that interest them, and are very popular with our students in grades 6-12. 

In 2023-24, 1,178 students at Chaloner Middle, Roanoke Rapids Early College, and Roanoke Rapids High School are enrolled in one or more CTE courses. 

Counting all student enrollments, we have 2,234 enrollments for this year.

Many of our CTE courses have industry-recognized certifications or credentials that validate student knowledge and skill attainment and allow students to start out at a higher salary level when they move into their career. 

Last year (in 2022-23), our students earned 1,932 credentials! 

We also offer Advanced Studies options for our career pathways, and many courses articulate to Halifax Community College. 

We are working to begin pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships in some of these areas in which our students can begin working in a career and earn money while they learn.

During the last four years, we have worked hard to increase our course offerings. 

Recently, based on student interest, we have started programs in Electrical Trades, Drone Technology, Welding, and our newest offering, Heavy Equipment Machinery, which will begin in Spring 2024 and includes two CAT simulators that prepare students for operating an excavator and skid steer. 

Starting any course requires student interest, staff collaboration, and often significant funding.

Before we could begin our Welding courses, we needed an adequate facility to serve as a Welding Lab. 

Instead of trying to build a new structure, we decided to renovate our former maintenance office space in the senior parking lot at RRHS. 

We used Education and Workforce Innovation Fund (EWIF) grant funds to purchase Welding equipment. 

We were excited to get a new teacher, Brody Griffies, to teach Welding (and Heavy Equipment Machinery and Core Construction). 

Our students will be able to start their Welding education here and seamlessly transition to Halifax Community College’s Welding program.

Last Tuesday, our Roanoke Rapids High School's Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers (joined by our Health/PE and JROTC teachers), Career Development and Special Populations Coordinator Candy Moseley, Curriculum and Instructional Management Coordinator Christina Henderson, and Executive Director of CTE, Accountability, and Testing Felicia Few were able to take a field trip to visit two of our community partners. 

The Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce's Business Education Partnership hosted a Teacher Tour Day for us! 

It was great to visit the Halifax County 4-H Rural Life Center where Jerry Edmonds, the Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development, gave us a terrific tour of the Center and shared about their programs and services available to students and our community. 

It was also great to have Ken Reynolds, president of the Halifax-Northampton Beekeepers Association, as a guest speaker who shared with our group as well. 

Our afternoon culminated with a visit to Binderholz Enfield where Robby Bullock, Don Keisling, and Jon Garner educated us about the variety of employment opportunities and career paths available through Binderholz's high-tech facility in Enfield. 

We sincerely thank our wonderful hosts for providing this learning opportunity for this dedicated group of CTE educators from RRHS, who are committed to bringing current information about local resources, businesses, and career opportunities into their classrooms for the benefit of their students.

Our CTE program is a great example of our district motto, Together We Succeed, in action. CTE brings our students and staff together with our community partners to prepare our students to succeed in careers right here in the Roanoke Valley. Our children are our community’s greatest resource. The more we work together to prepare our children well and encourage them to stay right here to live and raise their families, the more successful we all will be!