Externships for Educators Allow Student Paths to Take Flight


Interns are typically students or trainees who spend time learning a trade or occupation in order to gain specific skills and experience to launch their own career forward. But what happens when an experienced professional spends time inside a business in order to enrich the next generation of workers?

It’s called an externship, and it flips the script on your standard internship with a brilliant layer of educating the educators woven in to extend the impact even farther in the community.

An Innovative Partnership

Leadership Prep School was able to participate in the TEX2 Texas Teacher Externship program because of a federal grant through The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for STEM Education. The vision for Leadership Prep School’s teachers to take part in this kind of professional development has been there for quite some time, and this grant made it possible.

2018_OnRamps_Susie_Blankenship_2The idea behind the TEX2 Externship is to engage teachers in learning about STEM industries and workplaces in the community so they can turn their experiences into classroom lessons. The externship is an innovative partnership between public education, higher education, and the workforce.

Frisco’s culture supports the coming together of business to support educators through collaboration and partnerships. Leadership Prep School Superintendent Stacy Alton says,

Our city leaders have modeled the sense of socially responsible business to work with educational partners. They’ve shown it themselves and it’s filtered across the community.

Summer Learning

Over the course of the summer of 2018, fourteen Leadership Prep School teachers were not taking a summer break. Instead, they were partnering with businesses to dive in and learn in advance of the new school year. Teachers of math, science, English, computer science, leadership, career technology, and biology, along with a counselor and the band director each spent 40 hours in the field as part of the program.

At the conclusion of receiving their hours, the teachers shared the information in two ways. They shared with their peers so that the knowledge and feedback reached beyond this select group, and they incorporated it directly into the classroom so students gain the skills needed to be successful in the real business world. Superintendent Alton shared,

Teachers don’t often times get to see what they’re preparing their students for. It’s important to connect the dots between education and workforce.

Learning Among the Best

Leadership Prep aligned with Intuit, Jamba Juice, Southwest Airlines, Gearbox Software, Lifestyle Frisco, Frisco Style Magazine, Frisco Association for the Arts, DECA Dental, COMHOME Technology Solutions, Group Dynamix, City of New Braunfels, and ManeGait Therapeutic Horsemanship.

These companies hosted the educators throughout the summer or for half-day, full-day and two-day programs.

The summer externship program produced many key learnings, and allowed for real-life work challenges to be brought into the classroom to directly prepare students for their future careers.

The teachers who chose Intuit (whose flagship products include TurboTax and QuickBooks) as part of their externship worked with the design team to find solutions for their customers. Teachers went through portions of the training that Intuit employees receive. Team members from Intuit also came into the classroom to instruct students on how project-based learning models are used in the real world.

Leadership Prep’s Band Director was able to work on the mobile app development for the Frisco Arts Walk and Run coming up in October.


Leadership Prep Externs with members of the Lifestyle Frisco team

Three LPS English teachers sat in on leadership meetings, video and podcast productions, and publishing workflow sessions at Lifestyle Frisco. CEO and Co-founder of Lifestyle Frisco, Wendi McGowan-Ellis explained that she benefitted from the experience by seeing the company through the participant’s eyes.

It was amazing to see these women, who are dedicated educators, dive in and be so excited about learning our business operations. By attending our editorial updates and editorial strategy meetings, client relations meetings, audio podcast tapings, video tapings of our shows, and our All-Team bi-weekly conference call, Nadine, Amy, and Jeanne were immersed in every aspect of our business, our tools, and our delivery processes. I believe they gained a broader understanding of how we think about serving our community… by turning the FACTS for Frisco into the FEELINGS for Frisco through engaging written, audio, and video stories.

2018_Externship_Jamba_JuiceJamba Juice was a natural fit for the program as well since community involvement is part of their corporate fabric of “blending in the good” and being good civic partners. Product innovation was front and center when the Leadership Prep teachers visited Jamba Juice.

Teachers not only learned how they create products but also how math and science are used to consider the various nutritional components and marketing and commerce factors that go into creating a Jamba Juice drink. Jamba’s VP, Chief HR Officer Humera Kassem says,

Knowing we can influence the teachers that influence the next generation is a huge benefit from the externship program.

Southwest Airlines hosted a full day for the externs, where teachers went from department to department, toured the culture center, classrooms, deck and landing, and talked to the Human Resources team. They learned about skills and career pathways so they know how to go back to their classrooms and advise students to get the job they want.

The companies hosting the externs are walking the walk, getting into the classrooms, interacting with students and extending the relationship much farther than the required summer hours. Kevin Harvell, LPS Career and Technology Education (CTE) Director shared,

I was able to forge some amazing partnerships with professionals willing to come to our school to share their experiences with our students. Not only that, but they are also interested in having the students work on projects for the company. For example, Jamba Juice wants us to create an educational video game with our video game design class.

2018_Externship_GearboxShifting gears to the subject of computer science, enter Frisco-based video game developers Gearbox Software. Teachers learned storyboarding, art, language and the business side of how to monetize gaming – all pertinent real-life skills to take back to students in their game development class at Leadership Prep School.

Several of the local participating companies are talking to students about jobs and skills. These career opportunities are one unexpected positive outcome of the program and one of the factors for the increased interest in participation.

LPS hopes to receive the grant again for next summer. With that goal, they also hope to see the number of participating teachers and businesses grow.