(Note: In recognition of the vital role vocational education plays in our schools and communities, this is one in a series of stories of success achieved by local students who participated in the Career & Technical Education program through the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District.)
Joey Kronewitter makes no bones about it: He signed up for the Clare-Gladwin Career & Technical Education’s Culinary Arts class for unusual reasons. But it’s what the 2014 Clare High School graduate absorbed anyway in CTE that caught him off-guard. In short, he learned a lot about accounting in a cooking class.
“Honestly, a buddy of mine thought it would be a fun idea to take Culinary Arts,” Kronewitter recalled. “We thought that cooking and baking instead of writing papers would substitute well. I hoped to get out of math and English to do something a little more sporadic.”
Kronewitter discovered that life in Heidi Rocha’s Culinary Arts classroom offered a completely different kind of learning, one that appealed to him immediately. Now he’s an accounting major/ministry team drummer at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois.
“It didn’t specifically help lead me to my career choice,” Kronewitter said. “However, almost all of the work in my CTE class was hands-on. This was an amazing way to prepare me for college. CTE wasn’t just, ‘Sit down and do work’ – it was interactive and communicative.”
Today, Kronewitter uses the principles applied in CTE – hands-on, real-world soft skills – as he works toward a degree in a field that has very little to do with his actual CTE class. And that’s the less tangible, hard-to-define benefit of the CTE learning environment. But instructors have seen that phenomenon enough times to believe in it.
“Most of my accounting classes are labs,” Kronewitter said. “These are hands-on work, where we are working with others, discussing and comparing financial statements and records. I was prepared for the discussion and relational aspect of accounting because of the experience in Culinary. This is how we are going to learn in the workforce. After college, our continued education will not be limited to memorizing a chapter of a book to later take an exam; it will be an interactive learning environment where we gain knowledge by observing and listening.”
Kronewitter’s positive CTE experience – “Because of CTE, I am prepared for the journey ahead,” he said – included a high level of respect for his instructor, Rocha, who exerted a positive influence that he still feels today.
“Heck, yes!” he said. “Mrs. Rocha was the bomb. She was the perfect mix of professional and interactive fun. The work didn’t feel like the work we were used to. She made the classroom her own, and we all felt like we played our part.”