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Teaching something special: South Bend CTE educators inspiring students as graduates of the same program

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- In Bryan Eck’s welding technology classroom at Clay High School, juniors and seniors from each of South Bend Community School’s high schools cut, fuse, and create. 

“Practice verticals, ups downs,” said L’Angel Ruiz, a junior. “We’ll do different kinds of joint welds.” 

“I like seeing the welds be created like having just something scrap anything and then you create something out of that,” said Ashlyn Wiggins, a junior. 

“I love teaching the kids,” said Eck. “It’s fun to see students grab hold of something and make positive gains.”

Just down the hall, it’s a similar scene as Theresa Godette reviews medical terminology and case studies with future health science professionals. 

“What do you think would be the next step?” asks Godette. 

“Before even going into college, I’ll have all of this new knowledge that people like around my age, when they go to college, they don’t already have,” said Lacey Hammett, a junior. 

These classes are just two of 21 career and technical education programs offered by the district. 

Enrolled students spend half of their day studying under experienced professionals while learning more traditional subjects the rest of the day. 

Many of the tracks offer certifications or college credits that prepare the students for higher learning or the workforce after graduation. 

“Students are told, these are your options,” said Godette. “You can only go to a four year university and then they don’t even realize the other options out there. There are jobs that you can make good money at. There are jobs that you can get into and they’ll pay for your education.”

It’s something Godette and Eck know first hand. 

“I don’t know where I would be,” said Eck. 

“It kind of like changed my life to be honest,” said Godette. 

Each of the educators are graduates of South Bend School’s CTE program. 

“I would show up on test days and take my test and pass it and then go to credit redemption to make up all my absences,” said Godette. 

Godette enrolled after struggling to find value in classes as a freshman at Washington High School. 

“I was raised by a single mom so it was really valuable to me to be able to work and get money and get out of that poverty situation that I was in,” said Godette. 

She went on to earn her nursing assistant certification and split her school days with working in a local nursing home then hospital. After graduation in 1997, Godette continued to work before getting into teaching. 

“It’s kind of funny that my life has brought me into a complete 360 and now I’m teaching the class that empowered me and ultimately changed my pathway in life,” said Godette. 

Eck says a school counselor changed his life. 

“They pushed me into a trade because they realized a traditional, four-year college wasn’t for me,” said Eck. 

Within a few weeks of entering the welding program, he discovered his passion. 

“It showed me that there was another avenue to pursue,” said Eck. 

After graduation from Clay in 2004, Bryan went into the workforce and earned a technical degree. However, he wanted to create a bigger impact. 

“I felt a really big pull I guess you would say to help give back you know because without this program, I don’t know where I would be and I’d like to offer that to other students,” said Eck. 

It’s that connection that’s teaching something special within their students. 

“It made me realize like whether you succeed in one thing or another, you’re always going to be your own path to your own success and not just what everyone else tells you to be successful,” said Wiggins. 

“She knows exactly what we’re going through now and what other students are going through and like knowing that there are other options to get to a certain spot is really nice,” said Hammett. 

“I think it’s made me a better worker, stronger worker,” said Ruiz. 

“I just want those students to have the opportunity to explore and figure that out early on so they have those options, to have those certifications so when they’re coming out of high school, they’re successful,” said Godette. 

“It’s awesome to see kids find something they’re passionate about and taking it to another level,” said Eck. “You know, the students who may or may not have been geared towards college decides, ‘I can go out and I can actually do very good for myself.’”

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