Expanding on Student Passion: Getting Creative with Career and Technical Education

Guest post by Cameron Soester

Milford High School places great importance on non-core classes. Our career and technical education (CTE) courses and organizations have experienced tremendous success over the years. Much of this success is due to the dedicated staff members who do whatever it takes to allow students to explore their passions within the curriculum. To maintain the strength of these programs, we have devoted time and effort to renew and rejuvenate our CTE programs.

To include more students in CTE, we have begun offering a larger and more diverse catalog, adding courses in graphic design, screen printing, 3-D printing, robotics, and broadcasting. Our dual-credit offerings through career academies have also expanded, with more opportunites available through the local community college and other colleges and universities. And our senior seminar allows students to tailor their learning to suit their passions. Though it was a challenge to fit these new course offerings into our master schedule, our staff was willing to step up to benefit our students. Our principal even co-teaches the screen printing course (one of his passions) with another staff member.

Each of these courses brings something unique to our school. Students in our graphic design and screen printing program make many of the T-shirts for sports, clubs, activities and even a few community organizations. Our robotics students put their STEM skills to the test by creating VEX robot systems with which they will soon compete. Through our broadcasting class, students live stream all of our home events and make school promotional videos. Our dual high school/college credit program helped two students earn 27 college credits, with another 14 students (out of a class of 55) earning 12 hours of college.

One of the most exciting additions to our CTE program is senior seminar, a course that allows students to choose a topic to study for a semester and apply the knowledge and skills they learn in an interactive, self-directed project. Senior seminar provides opportunities for students to explore areas not offered at our school or to learn more about a topic on their own. Through this course, students have taken up photography, built custom duck blinds, and utilized our new computer numerical control equipment to develop outstanding projects.

Many of these expansions have been a part of a larger strategic plan made possible by an anonymous donation. Although some of these things happen every day in other schools across the country, the focus on these items, as well as our achievement in core classes, has made a lasting effect on the students of Milford Jr/Sr High School. When developing semester schedules, our students see all of the unique possibilities offered at MHS, which hopefully supports their career choices.

Milford Public Schools is driven by our motto, “Everyone has a story … make yours worth telling.” We have embraced this motto and allowed our students to develop some of their own stories through the CTE program. The culture we have created is one that promotes and rewards personal growth alongside the traditional student experience.

What types of programs or activities do you have that allow students to explore their passions? When and how do you incorporate student passions into your core curriculum?

Cameron Soester is the 2016 Nebraska Assistant Principal of the Year. He is currently the assistant principal at Milford Junior/Senior High School in Milford, NE.


  • Mike Duffy says:

    To be sure, this is the key to optimum learning. Relating the passion to English, math etc. can be vital for success in the 21st century. Unfortunately, too many of our school districts are fighting just to offer the most basic of educations. Our kids need the funding and visionary people like you and your CTE staff who understand what creates conditions for optimal learning.

  • Michael Thomas says:

    This is a great reminder, Cameron, of why we need CTE to help students apply their mind and skills to something tangible. Our school DECA program is fantastic and these students run the school store and compete in the annual marketing competition. Some of our best and brightest come out of this program and do very well because not only did they learn new skills, but also applied them to something that was their passion. Thanks for posting!

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your kind comments. We have been very fortunate, and are trying to make the most of our resources.


  • Jim Schultz says:

    Kudos Cameron, quality CTE programs and courses make a connection and deeper learning experience for students.

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