New teachers are expanding student opportunities with two new elective courses that will be offered at Portage High School next year.
The school board on Monday unanimously approved Sports Medicine to be taught by health teacher Ralph Kalal and Advanced Baking to be taught by consumer science teacher Michelle Madden.
Principal Josh Sween said when teachers approach him with new course ideas, he wants them to consider how they will enhance current programming.
“We want classes that are either going to take kids to higher levels of education going toward college or something that’s going to help them get a career when they get out of high school, because that’s our goal — to make every kid college and career ready,” Sween said.
Madden, who started working for the district this year, said she wanted to give students the opportunity to develop more than entry-level skills.
She currently teaches an introductory baking class that focuses on basics: Students learn the components of a commercial kitchen, how to use equipment and about different types of breads and dough.
Her new course will delve into more advanced techniques, such as how to make confections, cakes and pies, as well as cake decorating and sugar work.
“If I offered a second section like the advanced baking, I could take that first semester and really get in depth and really work on skills rather than just giving them a ton of information that they probably forget because they maybe only see it once,” Madden said. “So, I really want to give them multiple days on each topic and get them a really strong foundation on baking.”
Between the popularity of her introductory class — 75 students are taking it next semester — and about 25 students in the school who have indicated they want to go into baking professionally, Madden said she should have enough student interest to have at least one advanced class.
Most of her students won’t pursue a career in food service, but she noted that with the new course they will have the foundation to get a job in the field if they need a “plan B.”
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“If they need something to fall back on, they can,” she said. “They can always find a job. There are many jobs in food service. People are just dying for help.”
Kalal’s goal is to help students interested in physical therapy, athletic training and physical fitness be more prepared than he was for certain college courses.
He said he remembers “feeling very behind” in classes dealing with human anatomy and kinesiology during college.
“So, the idea was basically, ‘hey, we need more physical therapists, but how can we help them succeed and make it easier for them in college?’ And this was a very good idea, in my view, to help them,” Kalal said.
The new course will emphasize the skeletal system and the muscular system, spending more time learning human anatomy than existing courses.
By knowing those areas, students will learn how to prevent injuries and care for people who have been injured. For example, Kalal said students will learn how to strengthen the body and tape various joints as methods of preventing a sports injury.
Kalal, who is in his first year at the high school and his second year with the district, said some students have previously expressed interest in a human anatomy class.
“Now that I’ve proposed this class idea and I’ve talked to a couple of students about it, there’s some strong excitement amongst the students that I currently have,” he said, adding that he’s also hoping to draw other students, especially athletes.
Sween said some current seniors were “really bummed” that they won’t be able to take the sports medicine class.
“They were like, ‘Aw, we would have loved to have taken that class.’ So, when I get, one, obviously more opportunities for students, and two, we have students who are super excited about taking the new courses, that to me is the ultimate green flag,” Sween said.
Editor's note: The photo captions for this story have been updated to correct the class' subject. They were taken during a combined section of Culinary Arts 1 and 2.
Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.