“The only way we can make this happen is if business leaders get involved.”
This is one of the first things Dave Durand of Forest Giant says when we sit down to talk about his recent experience hosting a JCPS externship program.
It’s also one of the last things he says.
And that’s the reason he wanted to talk about the program in the first place. Not to toot his own horn, per se, but to spread the word about the externship program so other business leaders will get involved.
Last week, Durand hosted two high school teachers from Pleasure Ridge Park High School in a week-long externship. Keith Cathey, who teaches English at PR, and Josh Lightle, who teaches web design and business at the school were two of around forty-five high school teachers from nine schools across the city to participate in this pilot program.
Back in April, we told you that JCPS is pursuing Ford Next Generation of Learning status for the district, a designation that comes with a great deal of status, money and technology.
As part of the five-year master plan to work toward NGL status, Dana Shumate, the coordinator of business involvement for JCPS, folks from GLI and thirteen business and civic partners launched this externship program for teachers.
Two to three teachers from a school– usually from very different disciplines– are paired as a team with a business leader to shadow, learn about the business and participate in everyday activities.
In some case, like the externship with Forest Giant, the teachers are given their own project to work on.
“We had them complete a mini-hackathon,” says Durand.
Cathey and Lightle helped devise the product plan for a cellphone app. They went out and did market discovery for the product on behalf of Forest Giant. They learned basics of coding and helped create the wireframe for the app. By the end of the week, they’d begun building out the visuals and even received interest from some investors.
They learned a bit of Lean Startup methodology, how to create a minimum viable project with compelling design, customer validation, valuating the company and how to create an investor pitch.
Cathey and Lightle will continue to work on the app project with Forest Giant. Durand suggested that if the product gets funded, he will donate some equity toward an entrepreneurship program for JCPS.
“I got involved because I was frustrated with school reform,” says Durand. “I met with Dana and she said, ‘Why don’t you get involved?’ ”
Durand said that he learned a lot from the teachers who worked with him: “It’s important for business leaders to get involved so that they can understand the dynamics of JCPS.”
Public schools have “very complex systems,” says Durand. He think business leaders could help schools simplify.
“I also wanted to know what teachers are teaching in relation to what I do,” he says. The web design curriculum at PRP, he discovered, teaches technology that isn’t particularly valuable in the work place.
Durand echoes Ben Yoskovitz’s call to teach young children to code during his recent keynote speech at the EnterpriseCorp Signature Event. But Durand adds that children should be taught entrepreneurism and business at a young age too.
“We’re moving toward a talent-based economy,” says Durand. The methodologies supported by the Ford NGL program foster that; they emphasize team work and problem solving.
One of the purposes of choosing teacher teams from different disciplines is to encourage cross-curricular collaboration once they’re back at school. The NGL system promotes this and promotes project-based learning. “Schools are still a very silo-driven system,” Durand discovered.
Within a week of working closely on entrepreneurship and product development, the two teachers came away with the ability to deliver this real-world experience back to the kids.
“Every teacher in Nashville does an externship,” says Shumate. Nashville is a Ford NGL city. “Our hope is that every teacher in Louisville will do one.”
Shumate wants to build relationships between business partners and the schools and students via these externship teachers. She says she wants the businesses to do more than come and talk to the students; she wants them to be involved in the learning and invested. “Dave understands that,” she says.
Durand was totally new and foreign to the PRP community before this externship. But now he is committed to followup and continuing to help. Shumate wants him to be able to walk on the campus of PRP and have people in the community say, “Hey! Dave’s here.”
Shumate and her team pulled together this experience fast for these teachers. Durand said that she asked him to participate in May and by the first week of June the teachers and the business partners had been selected.
In addition to Forest Giant, externship teams were placed with Norton Healthcare, GE, Nth Works, Atlas Machine, Louisville Slugger, Ford, Bisig, Business First, WAVE3, the Louisville Metro Police Department and Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer Department.
Sometimes Dave Durand drops off the radar a bit. But when he’s back on the radar, he’s back in a big way (as evidenced by the fact that this is the second story on Durand’s work in as many days for Insider Louisville).
When I bumped into him for the first time after months of not seeing him, I asked him what he’d been up to.
“Getting things done,” he said.