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School adds to focus on career training

Jeanne Garbers Walden

FAIRMONT — As part of Fairmont High School’s goal to grow its vocational program, an additional family and consumer science teacher has been added for the upcoming school year.

Jeanne Garbers Walden will teach culinary classes, which include Food Prep 1 and Food Prep 2, and will be involved with the new work-based learning program.

Garbers is a 2004 Fairmont High School graduate. She has a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer science education and a master’s degree in education.

Garbers husband, Andrew Walden, is also a teacher. He will teach sixth-grade Minnesota history at Fairmont Elementary School.

The couple have two children: Hank, who is 2, and Etta, who is 5 months.

“I’m excited to not only be back in the foods room that I took the foods class in, but also be working alongside Amber and Bob and Wendi,” Garbers said of the other vocational teachers. “They’re a great support system and everyone’s been so welcoming coming back.”

In her food prep classes, Garbers will work with students in grades 9-12. Her classroom recently got an industrial refrigerator and freezer.

“I think long term, these two culinary classes will evolve into ProStart, which is a nationally recognized culinary program,” Garbers said. “Students would be learning the exact same skills as they would in a professional kitchen. Eventually, that’s what these two classes will look like.”

“With ProStart, you’re very connected to the community and the businesses and learning skills from them. There are also competitions, scholarships and credits they can receive if they decide to go on to a culinary school. There’s a lot of benefits to having this versus just a traditional foods class.”

In addition to teaching the culinary classes, Garbers will teach work-based learning, which is new to the school this year.

“It’s what they used to call work release,” she said. “Now they’ve modified it so it’s a two-part course. It’s a seminar to learn work skills and plan and prepare for your future, and also get hands-on skills in that profession.”

Garbers explained that students who wish to take work-based learning will likely start by taking skill assessments and interest surveys to see where they want to pursue a career. Then they’ll reach out to someone in the community in that field in order to job shadow, land an internship or work where they could earn a small wage.

“They would continue to meet at the high school for their seminar class and learn basic job skills, safety on the job, and there’s a big financial literacy piece with that so they learn what their paycheck looks like and what they take out for taxes,” Garbers said. “It’s a whole encompassing class where they learn what they want do post-graduation and how they continue in that field.”

Garbers said the idea is that not every student will want to pursue a four-year degree, and there are many opportunities that require a two-year degree, certificate or other training.

Any junior or senior can sign up to take the work-based learning class, which will likely be offered the second semester of the school year.

Bob Bonin, who teaches welding, careers in transportation and automobile repair, to name a few, also has his work-based learning certificate.

Garbers explained that many businesses have a demand for employees but cannot fill openings because either people have not had training for the job or they are not even aware the career exists.

“With work-based learning, there’s the idea that you can grow your own employees within the community,” Garbers said. “A student might gain experience here in town, go on to get their training and come back in order to work with a particular business because they had a positive experience. It sounds like this could benefit not only the students, but also our community because there’s always a shortage, whether it’s of teachers or welders or those in hospitality. If we can get students the knowledge that they need in order to be successful in that career, why not do it?”

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