Rangel leads efforts for agriculture-based career academy, succeeds

Four years ago, the idea of an Agriculture Career Academy had failed to take off, however, recently career and technical education director Melinda Rangel decided it was necessary to revisit the idea. Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, the Ag Career Academy will be offered to 25 students that apply for the chance to learn from an ag-based perspective.

When the number of students looking for ways to acquire credits increased, Rangel looked into finding a common denominator. From her research, she found that 60 percent of the students looking to make up credits were taking an agriculture class. Rangel said her research made her believe that the kids were not struggling, but in need of different instruction. As a result, Rangel decided to revisit the idea of an academy and compiled a group of teachers to attend a conference in Tampa, Fla.

“I learned that a career academy is not just for students that may be struggling in normal academic areas, it is really just a way for students to learn. It provides them an opportunity to learn academics through the lens of a career,” Rangel said. “We chose agriculture. At first I had ag in my mind because of the students that we had coming out for credit recovery and the alternative program, but the more we learned at the conference, I learned that saving struggling kids who are failing should be why we have the academy. It should be an option for anybody who wants to learn through this lens of instruction.”

Unlike in normal courses, the curriculum will be altered to be taught from an agricultural point of view.

“The kids in this academy will take the same core classes in addition to an ag elective. They will be getting the same standards that any other kid in that English class is getting in that grade level with the infusion of agriculture,” Rangel said. “It is just teaching and then making those connections between all of your core subjects and your ag class to learn about how agriculture really impacts us in many ways.”

While the students will experience changes in curriculum, a select group of four teachers will go about introducing the information. Elizabeth Gunn will teach social studies, Ryan Kopper and Lacie Fair will teach English and Amber Janzen will teach agriculture.

“I am the support. I am the cheerleader. I am the ‘whatever they need person’,” said Rangel. “I want to support this team of teachers. They are really doing something new and creative and innovative. It takes time and work.”

The career academy is expected to remain for following years. As for growth in the program, Rangel says she is excited for new partnerships in the school and community.

“In our community, we have lots of ag resources and an advisory board in our current tech-ed pathways that is strong and supportive,” Rangel said. “We want all 25 of these kids their senior year to be able to do an internship. We want to find those places that our kids can go out in the business and community and find ways that they can learn about that career while actually in the career.”

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