This summer, 38 Leander ISD teachers, counselors and administrators were matched with local businesses to complete externships as part of the Educator Career Opportunities on Location (COOL) Experience. These externships provide educators with knowledge and hands-on experience which they bring back to the classroom in order to directly prepare students for careers in a variety of industries.

Since 2017, Leander ISD has partnered with Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area (WSRCA) and the Leander Chamber of Commerce to implement the COOL Experience, also known as the Summer Educator Externship Program. The program provides LISD employees with an opportunity to engage in industry-related activities and learn how classroom content can be applied in various workplaces. 

Cedar Park Middle School Science Teacher Jeanette Courtright completed her externship at the Williamson County Crime Lab Unit. She said that the externship allowed her to see the skills and attributes needed in the workplace and how to connect those skills to students’ experience the classroom.

“One of the biggest takeaways was the ability to work in teams and the work family environment,” Courtright said. “Each person has their assigned role, but it takes all parties to do the job effectively. Building relationships in the classroom, whether it’s teacher to students or students to students, is so important.”

Shannon Tidwell, an agricultural science teacher at Vandegrift High School, completed her externship with Bloom and Leaf in Leander. Although she has taught floral design in the district for nearly five years and ventured into wedding and event floristry with her advanced floral students, this was her first time working with a full-time industry florist.

“I learned the most about effective processing and management techniques, as much of what we do in the classroom is time sensitive so some of those small details get overlooked,” Tidwell said. “Overall, I had a great time working with Celia and am grateful for the opportunity to step out of the instructor role and learn from someone who has had a successful career as a florist.”

All of the teachers who have participated in a COOL Experience externship speak highly of their time in the program and the ways in which it equips them to guide their Career and Technical Education students in the classroom.