Napa Educator Externships Expose Teachers & Students to Local Industry

In summer 2019, the California-based nonprofit NapaLearns partnered with the Napa County Office of Education to launch a yearlong, three-phased, work-based learning program called NEXT — Napa Educator Externships. These externships took place over three days and provided participants with comprehensive, on-the-job experiences. Participating teachers received a true picture of the work being performed, the challenges encountered, and the structure of a typical workday in various roles and departments within our local health care, hospitality and wine industries.

In the second phase of the program, they took the information learned and created a proposed unit of study or a project that integrated these industry skills into their existing academic curricula, which they presented to each other and their business hosts. Last, in spring 2020, the teachers will present the finished projects and the results to their business hosts in a showcase event.

What does NEXT mean to our teachers?

Almost 60 K–12 teachers spent their summers immersed in what it takes to run a business: sales, marketing, finance, human resources, manufacturing and much more. They developed employability skills, communicating and collaborating in daily meetings, and technical skills, using Excel spreadsheets and working in a lab.

Hear from Betsy Whitt, an integrated science teacher at Redwood Middle School in Napa:

We received many, many positive comments across the spectrum of K–12 teachers:

“We learned so much and felt we were given access to a world that we would never have been able to navigate otherwise,” said Keenan Hale, a visual arts teacher at New Tech High in Napa, California. “I’m so excited to share my own experience with my students who are interested in professions in this industry — students can be involved with healthcare on so many levels, and there are so many different entry points to find out if it is right for them.”

“It was really cool to see the skills I teach my students in action in the hospitality industry,” noted Kayla Bryant, an elementary school teacher at Napa’s Northwood Elementary. “It helped broaden my perspective on why collaboration and communication are so important by seeing these skills applied in real-world situations during every moment of our visits. It gave me a deeper understanding of the kinds of jobs some of my students may have when they enter the workforce and consequently made me feel more prepared to teach them and get them ready for their future.”

What does NEXT mean to our business partners?

During the externship, teachers got to see a variety of professions in-person and ask their business hosts questions that they had about the roles. By sharing their time and talents with participating teachers, businesses had the opportunity to support students, build relationships with local schools, and invest in their potential future workforce.

However, NEXT meant a lot more than that to the businesses: It was about building community and sharing their passions for what they do with the next generation growing up in Napa Valley.

One of the wine industry participants was Trinchero Family Estates (TFE). TFE is the second largest family-owned winery in the world and the fourth largest winery in the United States. It has a global presence in 50 countries and, according to Wine Business Monthly, it produced 20 million cases of wine in 2018 (Caporoso, 2019). They enthusiastically introduced teachers to their business.

“Trinchero Family Estates was happy to provide the teachers with a nearly end-to-end look at how we develop, make, market and distribute our products. Many of our staff are Napa residents and there is a strong sense of community within our industry,” said Kent Mann, director of operations for Trinchero Family Estates. “What was particularly satisfying was seeing some of our floor level operators, who were former students, come up to the teachers to say hello. The teachers, as well as the TFE folks who were involved, were fully committed to this program, and I believe that it was a very rich experience for all.”

What comes after NEXT?

The relationships between the teachers and businesses have been further strengthened by business employees becoming guest speakers in the classrooms and by hosting students for on-site or virtual field trips. For example, Trinchero Family Estates recently hosted 15 CTE computer science students from New Tech High School at their manufacturing facilities to learn about the role of robotics in the production and distribution of their wines.

The net effect of NEXT is to enrich the classroom experience for students through the teachers’ hands-on participation in the working world. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average student-to-school counselor ratio is 482–1 (Fuschillo, 2018). Because this is such an important role, participating NEXT teachers are becoming “career ambassadors,” exposing students to job options that are available and the skills they need to obtain them.

NEXT provides the opportunity for more teachers to participate in CTE and to teach specific career skills to their students. Many students — and their teachers — are unaware of the rich employment opportunities available in Napa County and nearby regions. NEXT is a way to inspire and prepare our students for a wide variety of high-wage, high-skill and in-demand careers that are going unfilled. By integrating traditional academic teaching with career education, NEXT teachers are building high-quality classroom instruction and enriching their curricula.

Peg Maddocks, Ph.D., is executive director of NapaLearns, where she is responsible for advancing innovative programs to improve the educational outcomes of students in public schools throughout Napa County. While Maddocks has spent most of her career in private sector leadership positions, she began her professional life as a teacher, principal and program director in a K-12 public school district. Maddocks holds a bachelor of science in early childhood education/special education, a master’s degree in school administration from Rhode Island College and a Ph.D. in instructional psychology from Michigan State University.

Caparoso, R. (2019). A listing of Lodi grown wines produced by non-Lodi wineries. Retrieved from
Fuschillo, A. (2018). The troubling student-to-counselor ratio that doesn’t add up. Education Week. Retrieved from