LARNED — Jacque Wasinger is the Family and Consumer Science teacher at Larned High School. Four years ago, she began organizing mock interviews for students in her Career and Life Planning class. On Wednesday, 17 students took part in the exercises meant to build real world skills.
Nine volunteers, which included both community business representatives and high school staff were recruited to conduct the interviews, and students underwent two each in order to experience different interview styles, Wasinger stated in a release emailed to the Tribune.
“My goal, for all of my students, is to provide them with the tools they will need to be successful in the future,” she wrote. “I try to keep in mind that students need relevant, real world skills, and the most rewarding part of my job is helping students to help themselves.”
Interviewers provide perspective
One of those volunteer interviewers was Scott Morse, a para in the USD 495 Special Education classrooms. He shared some of his background with students before interviewing with them. He is retired Navy, having worked with computers and IT. Not ready to stop working entirely, his next move, taking a position with the school, can be held up as an example of one of the processes Wasinger touts.
“I often encourage students to pay attention to the opportunities out there and see what presents itself,” Wasinger shared.
LHS Principal Troy Langdon has been involved in the activity from the beginning, and Wasinger is grateful for the support she’s received. Langdon has allowed her to try different projects and ideas to provide learning experiences, and has been an interviewer for her each year.
“It really provides the students a small glimpse of what true interviewing can be like,” Langdon responded in an email to the Tribune. “Throughout the process students dress the part and act the part and take it seriously. It is truly a great learning experience for all involved.”
Having community member professionals involved makes it even more impactive for the students, he added, and the students were fantastic.
Other interviewers included Alex Fillbert, LHS Counselor Jeanette Johnson, LHS Industrial Arts Teacher Jerry Johnson, Brenda Langdon, LHS Principal Troy Langdon, LHS Math Teacher Toni Novotny, David Palkowitsh and Kathleen Remy.
Mock interviews help students practice important interview skills in a safe environment, receive feedback, and hopefully allow them to become more confident. They go on to use those skills not only in securing employment, but also securing scholarships for college, Wassinger noted.
Students in her class research opportunities for training for careers, post-secondary education options, and increasing skills in both written and spoken communication, goal setting, and relationship building. Self reflection is another skill Wasinger focuses on.
“At this time of year I observe students really looking towards the next step,” she stated. “These students are working hard to prepare for their future both in class and on their own. These mock interviews are just one more way that we can help them to prepare for their future in a safe environment before they strike out on their own.”
Job skills next step
Once students complete the Career and Life Planning class, juniors and seniors who have good attendance records and a good GPA can continue to the more advanced Career and Community Connections class Wasinger teaches. At the beginning of the semester, the work is all in the classroom. In the meantime, she reaches out to the business community to facilitate connections with those that will allow the students to come work at their businesses for about an hour a day during the school day. As a 2010 LHS graduate herself, she knew going in how great a resource the people in the community were.
“I wanted to provide this opportunity for our students to help facilitate connections between the community ad business professionals and the school.”
Today, the process is still as when she started. She personally calls and contacts people that she knows. Friends, teachers and coworkers are willing volunteers, and help her to make additional connections.
Langdon’s support is unwavering.
“By being provided the unique opportunity to see different careers and work environments, the class helps provide students a better direction when they head to college, attend a trade school or enter the workforce,” Langdon said. “The sky is the limit for students, they just need to be given the opportunity.”
Big picture spelled out
Offering FACS students this project and the other activities throughout the year gives students a chance to really put their skills to the test and make the connection between what they learn in school and what practical skills they will need after graduation, Wasinger said.
“As teachers, we know that students often want justification for what they are learning and want to understand the relevancy of how they will use it in the future,” she said. “My goal is to keep this in mind and to help students make that connection so they can apply the skills they are developing in all of their classes. All of our classes are important and work together to help the students to develop as a well-rounded individual.”
Feedback from the mock interview exercise is positive. Both the students and the interviewers have used the experience to brush up on their skills.
“I appreciate the support and time that I receive to offer this type of learning experience for our students,” she wrote. “ We have an extremely supportive and friendly community and I would love to see even more connections with the schools.”