Palatine High shows off manufacturing program to state superintendent
Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 showed off its innovate STEM program and advanced manufacturing classes this week to Illinois State Superintendent Tony Smith during his visit to Palatine High School.
Applied technology teacher Mark Hibner said the district is justifiably proud of the program that's doing great things both for individual students' career paths and the nation.
"This is very exciting," he said. "It's a very patriotic movement. We don't know what the economy is going to do, but if we work together we can get through any challenge."
Built in collaboration with Harper College and with the assistance and guidance of nearby companies, the program prepares students for potential careers in manufacturing and provides the country the skilled workers it needs to stay competitive, Hibner said.
Students who go through the entire program in high school will have earned 21 hours of dual credit at Harper, which can then help them complete simultaneous internships at area companies.
Most who start the now 3-year-old program don't do so with a firm intention of pursuing a manufacturing career, but perhaps because they saw something cool a friend of theirs made in class, Hibner said.
But for many, their enthusiasm for the subject grows after they overcome their initial fears about the amount of math required, he added.
"They see the real application of math and a light bulb goes off," Hibner said.
While the state superintendent sees schools throughout Illinois, Hibner believes the sophistication of District 211's program and the equipment it trains students on make it a standout.
During the state's Manufacturing Day in early October, Innovative Components Inc. President Mike O'Connor praised District 211 for being on the cutting edge of student preparation for the workforce. He said it was a strong reason why he intends to never move his firm's plant from Schaumburg.
Hibner said the manufacturing program's cooperation with Harper and local firms is a way for students to be earning as they're learning, giving themselves a good education debt-free.
"For kids, it's a better quality life," he said.
As much as the program is changing his students, it's also changing Hibner as well.
"Definitely in learning how to teach the concepts," Hibner said. "I'm so much better than I was the first year."