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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Elementary students learn first--hand about careers, advice to get them to dream jobs

Aug 02, 2022 10:11AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Throughout the spring, Canyons School District students had the opportunity to learn about careers from professionals in the field.

Presenters were asked to tell the students a little about themselves and their job, including skills they have, what they learn on their job and fun parts and maybe not-so-fun, but necessary parts. Many presenters brought tools with them to illustrate what they may do, talked about an average day and shared if they were bilingual and how it helped with their careers.

At East Midvale Elementary, Midvale Mayor Marcus Stevenson was among the presenters.

Stevenson was two months into his new position and was asked by a student what he does. After answering that he oversees 200 employees including police, fire and public works, he also told them he has multiple conversations on topics ranging from family shelters to clean air.

He brought with him a huge pair of scissors and ribbon so students could experience cutting the ribbon as he does for new buildings and businesses.

Another student asked Stevenson the most important skill he has as mayor.

“To be a good listener,” he answered. “I have to be able to listen to thousands of people. They tell me about issues they care about and I’m the voice for them. I also need to be able to bring people to work together.”

Stevenson was “pleasantly surprised” by the students’ engagement.

“I was asked so many questions and it was good to see they have opinions and concerns,” Stevenson said. “It’s important they know they have a voice.”

At Oakdale Elementary, guest speakers ranged from a commercial pilot to an artistic director of a children’s choir.

In a second-grade classroom, Brigham Young University chemistry professor Rebecca Olsen almost magically created a spark of fire for the students.

“I love chemistry and it’s fun for the kids to get a glimpse of what they can learn,” she said. “A lot of them were asking questions and were excited.”

Second-grade teacher Shannon Prado said the presenters get students excited about learning about their careers.

“Our students are able to talk to them to learn what skills they learned in school will help them,” she said. “We had a life and wellness coach share what she does and many of the students didn’t know a thing about that career. We had a police officer show students not only his tools, but also demonstrated how he is able to de-escalate a situation with his voice. It was amazing and really interested the kids.”

In another classroom, FBI agent Ryan Blair shared with kindergartners and fourth-graders about what he does, mostly investigate white collar crimes across the country.

He answered questions about drugs, cybercrimes, national security, terrorism, espionage— breaking it down in simple terms to the youngsters.

“Think of us as the federal police investigating crimes across the country and helping keep people safe,” Blair said.

After allowing a couple kids to put on his gear, a student asked what is needed to become an agent.

“One hundred thousand people apply, and we hire 2,000 of them so do well in school, stay away from crime and those involved in crime, and be good to other people,” Blair replied.

At Canyon View, entrepreneur Terrance Jesclard explained to students what an entrepreneur is and how and why he became one. Then, he shared how he and his parents developed a fuel tank fire suppression kit.

“Basically, before these, the gas tanks would explore when the bad guys shot at the gas tank,” he said. “Now, this is on every vehicle to keep the military safe.”

Second-grade teacher Ann Fisher said the kids were excited to learn about different careers.

“They’re finding their passions and being exposed to a lot of different jobs,” she said. “I’m sure they’ll talk to their parents about what they liked, but we’ll also write about what they learned and write our presenters thank-you notes.”

In a fifth-grade room, David Schonberg told students he was impressed with what they already knew about solar energy. They told him that the natural resource uses sun’s energy, it can save money and provide cleaner air and can help create electricity.

He also had them calculate that one solar panel produces roughly 500 kilowatt hours of energy per year per panel on a house roof. He said there are approximately 20 solar panels per roof and in Utah, with a great amount of sun, it can provide homeowners greater savings and help air quality.

Fifth-grade teacher Karla Antivilo said that career day was a good tie-in to their experience at Junior Achievement business town when they role-played positions in several businesses. She planned to have students share their strengths and talents with possible careers at their morning meeting.

Midvalley held a couple large speaker sessions for students before returning to rooms for classroom speakers. The multipurpose speakers included an environmental engineer, who had hands-on examples for students to see how decisions impact the quality of water; a Girl Scout membership support specialist, who shared with them about her position supporting the Girl Scout mission; and a certified equine therapist, who explained how she helps massage and relax horses—and took one class out to get a first-hand look how she does it.

Many students were excited to see their former school office staff team member Polly Gallman return to the school as a registered nurse to share about her journey and what she now does for her patients in the medical/surgical unit at Primary Children’s Hospital.

“I check for bumps on their head, take their pulse on their wrist or foot, check their eyes and their mouth, listen to their heart and lungs and belly, take their blood pressure, look at their back and feet, press on their belly, and make sure they’re drinking water—all as part of my assessment,” she said. “Many of you know me from working here at the school office and I’d help you if you got sick, now I’m doing it for more kids. I found my passion in helping kids get better. What I want you to remember is that you’re never too old to go back to school so don’t ever give up on your education.”

Canyons Career and Technical Education Coordinator Patti Larkin said that career days gives parents and the community a chance to play an essential role in children’s education.

“Each parent or community member brings a unique perspective and job they can share with our students,” she said. “Especially now as COVID allows, it has been great to get our presenters back into the elementary schools helping our young students explore their interests and learn about possible careers.”