Mr. Tommy Hamilton practices what he preaches. In a telephone interview, I was able to understand and connect with his passion for his program and his students as well as his industry. As a 15 year teacher and almost 25 years in the military, he has had many opportunities to make that good first impression, including in our first interaction.
Tommy works at a career tech academy with approximately 60% of his students in secondary education and 40% in post secondary in the field of IT. When asked about what he finds most personally rewarding in his career he immediately responded with “the impact on the next generation of IT professionals”. I connected with this comment immediately, as an engineering teacher I feel the same about my field.
His students are in a fast paced career path that is constantly changing. This is what he sees as one of the most challenging parts of this field. Because it is changing so fast, his best advice to his students is to find what they love in the career and become an expert on that item. One of the benefits of being a CTE teacher, is seeing his students be career ready within a year with a skill or trade without having the choke hold of large college debts. I see this in my field as well for those students that want to work in trades instead of being design engineers.
It is important to understand, for students and parents, the difference in pathways. Some students career path leads them to college,such as engineers; some students career path is through technical education or trade schools. Both are admirable paths and can lead to long and important careers. Both are needed in today’s world.
Finally, one of the items I found most interesting, was Tommy’s commitment to providing his students with opportunities to make that good first impression. He invited his students to a career fair that may not have included their specific area of expertise, but found that to be a great environment for them to practice the handshake, introduction and eye contact. His students had employers wanting to hire them, not because of their expertise, but because of their interaction. That is a gift to his students. Those kind of skills are rarely taught anymore and that is to the detriment of our students. Remembering that you only get one first impression is one of the most important lessons for today’s youth.