After teaching accounting and other business courses at Springdale High School for over two and a half decades, Kelley Williamson coordinates the Career and Technical Education teams for the entire Springdale Public School District. She will always be a teacher at heart but her classroom has expanded considerably.
“CTE is a high priority in our district,” says Williamson. “What our teachers do is amazing. They show our students a world they are not familiar with. When you combine the work of our students, teachers and business leaders with the support we receive from our administration, the results are powerful. They are life changing.”
Williamson’s district team involves instructors at Springdale and Har-Ber High Schools and the Don Tyson School of Innovation. She works with programs in the high schools, junior highs and middle schools.
“We have so many students involved in FBLA, DECA and SKILLS USA,” Williamson says. “Students take what they learn and compete locally, statewide and even nationally. I’ve worked with FBLA during my entire 28 years in Springdale. We’ve had students who have never been on a plane or even outside Springdale. It is great to see them involved in something special. They compete and they network. When they graduate from high school they already have formed relationships with students from other areas of the state and country. When it comes to competition, Springdale is always at or near the top!”
One of Springdale’s best CTE programs is robotics. Each high school and junior high has a robotics program as do several of the elementary and middle schools. The Don Tyson School of Innovation’s Root Negative One robotics team won the Inspire Award and the World Championships in Houston and will become TEAM USA for the Global Championships in Dubai in October.
“Imagine the experience the students going to Dubai will have,” Williamson says. “They will never be the same. They will be meeting and networking with students from all over the world.”
Local companies are very involved with the robotics programs. Williamson notes, “Representatives from Tyson and Conair visit our schools and tell our students how they use robotics in their companies. I am so proud of our community and how it supports our students.”
Tyson, Pace Industries and Multi-Craft are among the companies supporting the Industrial Maintenance program by making sure the district has the right equipment and providing financial assistance. They even have formed a steering committee to help the district find a highly qualified instructor.
“Employees of these companies as well as Conair work on projects with our students,” says Williamson. “The opportunities available in Northwest Arkansas are amazing. It’s fun to see our students become aware of those opportunities and see the progress they make by the time they exit.
“Representatives of Walmart, Tyson, J.B. Hunt and several of our insurance companies visit our schools and interview our students as if they are interviewing for jobs. They teach our students what to wear and how to prepare for job interviews. These interviews can actually turn into jobs.
“Northwest Medical in Springdale interviewed 11 students from the medical academy at the Don Tyson School of Innovation last spring and hired them all. They are working with the DTSOI this year and next year will expand the program to Springdale and Har-Ber High Schools. They not only need students interested in the medical field but also in accounting and marketing. Students who have bi-lingual skills are in high demand.”
Students who graduate with industry certification are in high demand as well. The district has programs that provide certification in marketing, Microsoft office, construction and finance among other areas. Williamson notes, “Certification shows employers the students are ready and qualified to perform.”
Each of the programs Williamson oversees is “very rigorous. They also build relationships with families, teachers and businesses. They are a three-cord rope. Businesses steer us in the direction we should go. Having the world’s largest retailer and the world’s largest poultry producer as well as so many other large businesses in our backyard is a tremendous blessing. To have their people come into our schools is eye opening for our students who are able to see available opportunities.”
A native of Paragould and University of Arkansas graduate, Williamson has spent her entire professional educational career in Springdale and loves seeing what the CTE programs have done for so many students.
“It’s great to see so many of our students involved in clubs,” she says. “They learn to belong to something bigger than themselves. Kids need to belong and in the clubs they are all in it together. We are blessed to be in Springdale where teachers are willing to bring students into the clubs, spend time with them and help them with fundraising, which is necessary for the trips.
“My own daughter made a trip to California with a team from Central Junior High this summer for competition. She had such a good time she wasn’t ready to come back. Many of the students came back winners. A trip like that shows students another world of opportunities.”
Williamson has taught Business Management in the SHS International Baccalaureate program for 10 years and this will be the first year she doesn’t teach accounting after 27 years of instruction in that area.
“I will still teach Business Management but I love the freedom to be able to visit all our schools as I oversee CTE,” Williamson says. “This has been the joy of my life. I am very thankful to be able to work with our students, teachers and administration.”
Springdale’s CTE program is the best of the best and another reason Springdale Public Schools are #THEChoice.