Lifeskills teacher and Career Technical Education [CTE] Director, Kelly Kirkland, offers a variety of electives for students looking to expand their knowledge of every day tasks, responsibilities, and skills. In order to decide what she teaches, Ms Kirkland has learned to listen to students and take note of what interests them. “When I first started at Jenison, I followed a curriculum and as time goes on I see what the needs of the students and community are and switch things up. Also as I have a HS student myself, and I see things that I want my kid to know as he prepares to leave home. A few years back our Family and Consumer Science department recognized an increased interest in Interior Design so we incorporated some units in this to help kids with house designs, color trends and coordinating colors with accessories to give a seamless appearance within our Teen Living course.”
Ms Kirkland tries to focus on meaningful skills that students will use either at home or when they leave the nest. Sometimes there are bumps in the road learning new things but students always “seam” to see the benefits. “When the students start sewing it is new to many of the students so it can be very frustrating for them but as soon as they get the hang of it they love it and it is a skill they can use the rest of their lives. When it comes to cooking, some students have no skill and some have been cooking since a young age. We start very basic and work our way to more advance skills. However, the cooking we do is focused on simple foods that students can make after leaving home. We also learn about importance of nutrition. Many former students say they think twice about the foods they choose to eat and impacts them to make healthier choices.”
If you think there is a small population wanting to learn to manage life on their own, think again! Ms Kirkland’s classes are typically full, hosting 30 – 33 students a class. Some of these students end up finding a talent or passion that’s new to them, but has meaning for their futures. “Years ago, a student made their own prom dress and many students have gone into the culinary and bakery programs at the OAISD and GRCC . Also, parents find it helpful that they can rely on their child to participate around the house by starting dinners and fixing their own clothing [buttons, hems, rips]”
Ms Kirkland is proud of the things students are learning in her classes and what it means for their futures. “These are skills that many working parents cannot teach at home and that students will need to use throughout their lifetime. I teach life skills that students help them ease their way into college and adulthood. These skills will be carried with them the rest of their lives.”
Thank you, Ms Kirkland, for teaching our students these important life skills! We can’t wait to see where these new chefs, bakers, checkbook balancers, and tailors show up down the road!