South Jersey teachers take on the SJ workforce

The program helps teachers bring knowledge back to students

A dozen South Jersey teachers took a week to learn about different aspects of the South Jersey workforce to bring knowledge to their students about how to best prepare for their future. The list of teachers include Gilbert Coble Jr. from Burlington County Institute of Technology, Jacqueline Cross from Gateway Regional High School, Nicole Cucinotta from Sacred Heart School, Michael Dempsey from Washington Township High School, Nancy Falvey from Glen Landing Middle School, Michele Orr and Sarah Reynolds from Kingsway Regional High School, Ashley Rodriguez from the Bancroft School, Roger P. Roslowski, Jr. from Cinnaminson High School, Tracy Turner from Pennsville Memorial High School, Michelle Williams from Woodstown High School and Grace S. Wilson from Cumberland Regional High School.

The South Jersey Summer Institute for Educators welcomed over a dozen teachers from across South Jersey to visit local workplaces and learn about economic, business and public-policy issues that will help bring new knowledge about careers to students in the upcoming school year.

The summer program began in 1992 to give teachers hands-on experience in helping students who may ask for advice when it comes to picking majors for college or a career field in general.

“Employers walk the educators through the types of jobs that are available and the skills needed to fill those jobs,” said Christina Renna, president & CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, who has run the program for many years. “The hope is to keep South Jersey based students living and working in the region for years to come,  and the business community ultimately benefits by having a pool of better prepared workers.”

More than 623 teachers have been through dozens of schools and have reached an estimated 60,000 students with the messages they learned in the summer institute.

This year, teachers visited Campbell’s Soup, Subaru of America, Five Below and  Lockheed Martin, among others, and visited trade employers such as the Rizzieri Aveda School. Out of all the places teachers were able to visit, one stood out to Michael  Dempsey, a math instructor from Washington Township High School who has taught for over 20 years.

“Several businesses we visited, including Jefferson, had inspiring stories of people who either majored in one field, or didn’t know what to study, and ultimately followed a different career path,” he said. “This is so important to remind my anxious teenage students of. They don’t have to have their whole path mapped out at 17 years old.

“What they need is to have core values that they will embrace and promise themselves to enjoy the journey no matter what happens,” the teacher added.

Along with the knowledge he will impart to students, Dempsey has learned new things for himself.

“I have conversations regularly with my students about career paths and answer questions like, ‘What classes should I take if I want to major in such and such?’” he noted. “This experience was richer than I could have imagined, and I learned many of the values I try to instill in my students are what employers are looking for. And the focus is much greater on character than it is curriculum.

“This experience has added a layer to my ability to vision cast for my students as their high school years will go faster than they realize.”