(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.)
Some people are lucky; they discover early in their careers that special something that makes them love their job. Some people aren’t; they wait their whole working lives for that moment that never comes. Dominic Lake’s definitely a member of the first group – in fact, he knew before he even started his career.
Lake, a 2011 graduate of Gladwin High School, figured out pretty quickly that a career in education was perfect for him. Not long after he enrolled in the Clare-Gladwin CTE program’s Education Occupations course, he got an eyeful of that life – and he loved it.
“I had actually heard of CTE through my school,” Lake said. “I became interested when they said I could receive experience in the field that I was interested in pursuing. When I saw the children’s faces – when they noticed the progress they were making and how rewarding that look was – it made me feel like I was choosing the right path. And I never would’ve had that experience without CTE.”
Today, Lake has completed his student teaching requirements at Gladwin Elementary alongside substitute teaching and coaching. He’s on pace to graduate this spring with his teaching degree. Starting out in CTE, Lake met some people who would bear heavy influence on his decisions, including CTE Instructor Margaret Bailey.
“Dominic took academics seriously, and was very effective working with young students in his placement sites at Gladwin Elementary,” Bailey said. “I am very excited that Dominic has followed through with his goal of becoming a teacher and a coach. I was surprised to see him this fall, student teaching in the same school which he was a CTE student trainee, and delighted to see him competently instruct a class of second graders.”
As is the case with so many educators, Lake’s passion is rooted in making a difference in his students’ lives.
“It’s important to me because children are our future, and my teaching may inspire a young mind on any given day,” he said. “So I know that I have to give it my all every day and mold these minds the best I can.”
Bailey said the CTE Education Occupations course offers a great look at the field for its students, teaching them some valuable extra lessons along the way.
“The course allows students to explore careers working with children - possibly as a classroom teacher, or in a career that works more with families, or a non-classroom career with children,” Bailey said. “All students are trained in CPR and First Aid. Then they’re placed with a minimum of two classroom experiences in their home district a few days a week.”
Bailey said there’s plenty of evidence that students learning about the education field as juniors and seniors have a leg up when they get to college.
“They experience hands-on activities that can be used with young children, and they’re exposed to a variety of teaching strategies and the incorporation of technology into teaching practices,” she added. “Professors at SVSU and at CMU have told us they can tell the difference in students who have taken a CTE course in education versus students who have not had that experience.”
For his part, Lake’s grateful to have had the early jump on a career he loves through CTE.
“Mrs. Bailey was always caring and willing to help us whenever we needed it, and her examples have carried on through to my classroom today,” he said. “I enjoy what I do because unlike some other careers, you can clearly see your progress on a regular basis. Knowing that whatever you are teaching will stick with the students for a lifetime is rewarding.”