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CTE weds jobsites with the classroom
dissect table

Matthew Murray is spending time observing Manteca firefighters stationed next to Del Webb at Woodbridge where he’ll accompany them when they roll on medical calls.

Courtney Lopez interacts with patients at San Joaquin General Hospital and is seeing the workings of a trauma center emergency room up close.

The on-site job experience is wedded with the Manteca Unified health careers class that includes cutting edge teaching technology that, in some cases, is a step ahead of colleges.

Of the 7,600 plus Manteca Unified high school students there are 4,600 enrolled in career technical education (CTE) classes. They run the gamut from health science and medical technology to agriculture and logistics.

You will find students heading for college as well as those planning on pursuing specialty education that will put them on a more direct job path after graduating.

Cheryl Behler who serves as the health careers instructor for the program on the Manteca High campus that also includes students from Sierra an East Union high schools sees it just a tad differently.

“These kids are our future” Behler said. “They are going to take care of me one day.”

Manteca Unified is continually striving to make sure its CTE offerings are as robust as possible.

Proof is Anatomage tables that are at both the Manteca campus as well as the class for Lathrop and Weston Ranch high students. They are the world’s first dissection table that offers a digital 3D exploration of the human body with a repertoire of software that offers case histories of various wounds, conditions, and afflictions.

Manteca Unified secured the digital dissection tables by aggressively pursuing a state grant,

The technology — that is just starting to become more prevalent at colleges to avoid the need for human cadavers — allows Behler to use a touch screen to pull up case studies.

“It is much more effective than what they can see in books,” Behler noted. “I can call up various case histories such as a gunshot wound with the trajectory.”

The image can be manipulated 360 degrees to give students a visual that is only second to working on actual cadavers.

But just because Manteca Unified goes after high tech educational tools, don’t think that they are leaving the basics behind. It’s actually the opposite. Curriculum for all CTE classes are interwoven with academics whether it is reading, English skills, science, or history.

Murray, who wants to pursue a career in fire service by attending Modesto Junior College after graduating Manteca High in May, pointed out that the job site experience helps him understand the importance of all of the academic disciplines he’s been learning through the years in classrooms.

Lopez said working with patients not only has made her more focused on pursuing a career in nursing — the junior has her sights set on attending the University of California at Irvine — but it has  driven home the need to be an effective communicator.

It’s is soft skills like that — such as effective communication, being on time for work, customer service, positive attitude, leadership, following directions, and even dressing for success that CTE programs such as the health careers class drives home. They are also what area employers that Manteca Unified administrators work with to develop the most effective CTE programs possible say are lacking among young people entering the workforce.

Soft skills are part of the ongoing effort to make sure CTE offerings are rigorous and relevant.

The level of intensity of CTE classes is reflected in Behler’s last nursing program session. Of the 36 students that started the class, only 19 finished.

That doesn’t bother Behler or educators.

The reason is simple. It benefits both students — and ultimately taxpayers — that young people can get a taste of what is expected in various disciplines before they invest years and money in a post-secondary setting and decide it is something they don’t want to do once they get real hands on experience.

As Behler  noted, it isn’t unusual for those who think they have their hearts set on a nursing career that once they see the job entails things such as tending to a patient’s hygiene quickly decide that it’s not a job for them.

There are 89 students from Manteca, Sierra, and East Union in Behler’s health careers class and another 60 in the one offered for Lathrop and Weston Ranch students.

The classes zero in on academics, communication, career planning and management, technology, problem solving and critical thinking, health and safety, responsibility and flexibility, ethics and legal responsibilities, leadership and teamwork, as well as technical knowledge and skills.

 The program allows students to explore the pathway to various careers — biotechnology, patient care, health care administrative services, health care operational support services, public and community health as well as mental and behavioral health.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email