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Central High School is in the “Business” of Producing Quality Citizens and Employees

The colorful signs dotting the classroom wall are a constant reminder of the life lessons relayed within.

“I want to hire employees who can’t do math,” said no boss ever. 

“I want to hire employees who can’t finish their work,” said no boss ever.

“I want to hire employees that can’t work well with others,” said no boss ever. 

By definition, Career and Technical Education provides students with the academic and technical skills, knowledge and training necessary to succeed in future careers and to become lifelong learners.

Throughout its network of high schools, Pueblo School District 60’s longstanding and robust CTE program is preparing students for a productive life beyond the diploma, whether in the workforce or at the post-secondary education level.

At Central High School, veteran educators Kim VanHee and Brad Ranson – both with nearly 30 years of teaching experience – are in the “business” of providing students with the skills and assets needed to excel in the world: whether that be in business or another arena.

The bottom line is to prepare students to be career and college ready in a well rounded, encompassing manner.

Kim VanHee talks with D60 about the Business Marketing program at Central “Our programs are very hands on,” said Ms. VanHee, who teaches marketing, DECA and computer applications through Central’s CTE program. “And we use the most up-to-date software programs, like Microsoft Office suites, and technology.”

In addition to learning how to navigate through the various aspects of the software, Wildcats engaged in the CTE curriculum are exposed to accounting, marketing, basic business skills and the foundation of entrepreneurship.

“I do a section in which we talk about successful entrepreneurs, and how they got to where they are,” Ms. VanHee explained. “A lot of times it’s hard work and determination, and having that perseverance. So we talk a lot about that: no matter how many times you fall, you get back up and get going again.”

Although technology and the proper operation of it may serve as the backbone of the modern working world, the interpersonal, or soft, skills that define a valued and quality employee are its enduring heart and soul.

As such, Ms. VanHee stresses the importance of communication and public speaking, organization, leadership, customer service, team work, punctuality and problem solving: “all the things they can utilize whether it’s in a career or moving onto the next level of education. 

“Because from what we’ve heard from the professionals out there, those are the things that kids today are lacking.”

The goal, Ms. VanHee said, is to lay out the blueprint for being a “good person and a good leader. As one of my students once told me, ‘Ms. VanHee, you teach us to be good people.’”

A key aspect of the business part of Central’s CTE curriculum is DECA, a competition that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.

As an example of the effectiveness of DECA, Ms. VanHee recalled how one Wildcat employed the assets gained through the program to great effect at the collegiate level.

As a freshman at Western State University, the entrepreneur-in-the-making is excelling in an upper level business course because of her acumen in the art of presentation.

“Some of the upper classmen dropped the course because they didn’t know how to present and organize a speech,” Ms. VanHee explained. “Some of the students, and even the professor, asked my student, ‘How are you so good at presenting?’

“And she said, ‘It’s a DECA thing. You wouldn’t understand.’ So I thought that was pretty neat. It’s also an example of how we get kids college and career ready at Central.”

Part of that preparation is offering guidance to those students unsure of what career path to travel.

“I often think of those kids who didn’t know what they wanted to do,” Ms. VanHee said. “We do some career assessments and things, working on ‘what’s next.’ Because many kids don’t know, and they feel a lot of pressure thinking they have to know exactly what it is they’re supposed to do when they leave Central High School.

“So we use things that we can work on to get them to that next level. I hope I can plant a seed and encourage them to not let anything stop them in moving to the next level.” 

Conversely, there are those students who were intent on entering the health field, as an example, but changed their path after finding fulfillment in the business curriculum.

For Ms. VanHee, the most rewarding part of education is learning that the classroom instruction has translated into real world results.

“I recently had a parent tell me, and I’ve taught all four of the kids, ‘You know, my boys tell me that your class has been the most useful in their lifetime.’

“And that means a lot to me.”

As accounting is a cornerstone of every aspect of the business world, Brad Ranson’s course is a “must take” for those planning to enter that world. 

“I think it’s so important for kids to understand exactly what’s out there in that business environment,” said Mr. Ranson, who in addition to accounting teaches computer applications and physical education. “What we tell them, constantly, is that the outside world is all about business, and you have to understand business in order to succeed. Brad Ranson talks with D60 about Central's Business Marketing program.

“We’re trying to give those kids a jump start in order to do that. And I think our programs lend themselves to that.”

Accounting, Mr. Ranson said, is a course that can enrich the lives of all students, not merely those eyeing a business future.

“It’s such a great class,” he explained. “If I had my way, I’d have every single kid take it, because it’s going to help you for the rest of your life: things like organizing your checkbook, making deposits, reconciliations.

“That’s everyday life, and we try to teach that accounting is much more important than just going out to get a degree.”

Mr. Ranson’s accounting course also has served as a springboard for students who went on to earn that degree

“I have kids out there, who I still communicate with, and they just can’t thank me enough because of what the course did for them,” he explained. “They’re coming out of college making more than I make in 28 years. But because they didn’t understand that way back when, kids need someone to articulate that, and let them know exactly what’s out there. 

“Because you can do a lot with an accounting degree.”

In addition to his nearly three decades of teaching experience, Mr. Ranson brings to the classroom real world experience: a fact that adds a broader perspective to his instruction.

“I got a BS/BA from Colorado State University Pueblo and I started out at GMAC in Golden, Colorado,” he explained. “And I acquired a ton of skills, eventually opening my own business as an asset recovery specialist 32 years ago.

“So I have a lot of business background. And to bring that to the table, to let the kids know exactly how to go out and communicate with the business community, is really, really important.”

When a Wildcat leaves the CTE program at Central and enters the next phase of his or her life, Mr. Ranson is confident that each does so with added value.

“That’s the bottom line: we want them to be a valued part of the community,” he said. “Career and Technical Education is so important in our community because these kids have all these new skills and can become employed.

“And to see that, and hear their stories about what they’re doing now, is really a great feeling.”