Area high schools showed various ways they are preparing students for college and careers during visits Monday by one of the state’s deputy education commissioners.

Lyle Ailshie, deputy commissioner for college, career and technical education, toured Heritage, Maryville and Alcoa high schools with Christy Seals, regional CTE consultant for the Tennessee Department of Education.

“I’m impressed with the quality and the craftsmanship of the teachers and students,” Ailshie said as he finished his morning tour at HHS and headed to the other schools.

Ailshie met with CTE teachers first to answer questions about topics such as end-of-course exams and learn about partnerships with postsecondary institutions, such as the Tennessee College of Applied Technology.

Ailshie said he wanted to hear, “what they’re proud of, what their challenges are and how we can help.”

At Heritage High School in the morning, for example, he heard about the 100 percent pass rate last year for students taking the certified nursing assistant exam and saw health sciences students in teacher Lindy Hall’s classroom practicing with their classmates by playing the role of patients.

In Sam Warwick’s classroom, engineering students demonstrated their award-winning robots, and Ailshie saw the robotic arm that is the same model used for training at DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee Inc.

Doug Blair’s students, who won the Battle of the Build recently by designing and making a full-sized bed swing that sold for $1,500, were working Monday on a king-sized version for a customer.

Lynnette Cottrell, who teaches cybersecurity and other computer classes, told Ailshie, “I feel like I’m preparing them for the world.”

New equipment

Ailshie, who was Kingsport City Schools superintendent before becoming deputy commissioner last summer, also saw how school districts have been using state grants for CTE equipment.

At HHS, teacher John Davis explained the Realweld trainer, which allows students to practice virtually before they start welding and tracks their performance. Blount County Schools used state grants to add the welding trainers to Heritage and William Blount high schools.

“It’s saved us a lot of money in the long run,” Davis said, by allowing students to learn first through the virtual training.

In the afternoon, Ailshie saw a SimMan simulator that the health sciences classes at Alcoa High School just received.

The advanced simulated patient, called “Alex,” can speak, breathes and has a heart rate and bowel sounds for students to check.

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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