Sandy High School a Leader in CTE
By OR Trail School District
Ryan Nystrom, Automotive Technology teacher at Sandy High School (SHS), sees the impact that Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs have on his students. As one of the eight CTE programs at SHS, Nystrom noted that graduates from the automotive program are currently attending post-secondary programs across multiple states and another six seniors have already been accepted into programs for next year.
“These students are all on the path to successful careers that they started at Sandy High School,” Nystrom said. “CTE courses are a pathway to in-demand and high paying careers that students have direct access to after graduation.”
Nystrom, who began his career as a social studies teacher, added the courses at SHS give students the skills that employers are looking for, which in turn offers them an edge in the job market.
“I have always believed strongly in empowering students to take charge of their futures and that's exactly what CTE allows for,” he said. “I get to watch students discover their passions and grow into young adults with the skills to thrive in the automotive industry.”
Trisha Smith, who teaches Food Science, Veterinary Science, Equine Science and Agricultural Leadership at SHS, set her career as a CTE teacher in motion during college. In high school, she took part in an agricultural program, but became a business major in college.
“I did not enjoy my classes and did not feel like I connected with my peers,” Smith said. “I moved majors to Agricultural Education and found many lifelong friends and a 20 year career where I have interacted with thousands of students.”
Smith, who is also the advisor of the Sandy FFA club, described CTE studies as having an “immense impact” on students' lives.
“I have seen some of the quietest students go on to place in state competition for public speakers, something they never thought possible,” she said, adding that many of her former students have found success as FFA State Officers.
Zachariah Duell, who teaches Intro to Engineering: Robotics/Drones, as well as coding and electronics classes at SHS, got his start teaching in other subjects, notably math and science. He developed a curriculum combining those two that culminated in project-based engineering competitions.
“It was so engaging for both me and the students, I decided I needed more, so I started working towards teaching CTE full time,” Duell said. “CTE classes provide students a chance to explore career paths and learn valuable skills that they'll need outside the core content areas. They give students a reason to go to school each day and a purpose for their academic work.”
Duell sees a bright future for SHS robotics, noting that teacher Kevin Frank will start an Advanced Robotics program where students will build robots weighing more than 100 pounds and enter competitions, while the Aerospace Engineering Club is actively working to put together a proposal for NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative to send a small satellite to orbit.
“Meanwhile we've been in discussions with other schools about opening up a drone racing league for high school students where they would build and fly their own drones,” he said, adding that the opportunities for students to be exposed to industry professionals and have real life practice in the field is invaluable to helping them get started in life after high school on the right foot.
“Just being able to show students, ‘Yes! This is a thing you could do. You could go to school to be an air traffic controller, a surveyor or a mechanical engineer. This is what it's like and this is the pathway to getting that job,’ can leave a lasting positive impact on a student's life,” Duell said.
Sandy High School offers 57 courses in eight different CTE programs.