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Independent Voice

Choosing Better through DHS 'Course Expo'

Feb 02, 2023 12:00AM ● By Story and photos by Debra Dingman

A student and his mother listen at an Ag course table featuring food sciences at the DHS Course Expo.

Choosing Better through DHS 'Course Expo' [2 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

DIXON, CA (MPG) - Dixon High School sophomore Nina Santini handed a welding helmet to another student wanting to see the welding demonstration just outside the school auditorium doors. The sparks were extra bright out in the dark catching the student’s attention. Santini is a first-year welding student who said she wanted to work on cars in her future so took welding and “really loves it.”

Hundreds of students and their parents and even siblings and grandparents showed up to Dixon High School’s Course Expo held in the auditorium last week. Tables were lined up around the edges of the huge building with displays from the various departments. Teachers and students explained what students will learn – and how they will learn – from math to animal sciences.

“There are ways to be and then there are ways to live,” said Principal Stephanie Marquez who got the idea to veer away from the traditional ‘Open House’ when she attended a Sports Expo in Sacramento with her husband.

“It was fun. It was social. There were booths (with vendors.) You could get a snack or look at RVs. You’d look at adventures. And I thought of our school and said, ‘We should do that!’” Marquez explained.

The School Office Coordinator Audrey Madden reported that 8th graders were invited, too.

“It is an opportunity to see what the course is offering so they can be ready for course selections which are coming soon for them,” she said. Also freshmen and sophomores may be interested in a Public Service Academy that they can choose when they are a junior or senior but aren’t really sure what it’s about.

“Our core expectations are to engage, seek support, and be present but that goes for our teachers, too. Teachers don’t get the opportunity to get together very often,” Marquez explained, “So they get to see what some of the other teachers are doing. For everyone else, they get to see what the school is about.”

In the previous ‘Open House’ style, people were isolated in the classroom and probably didn’t remember things after they left but with this style, they don’t have to remember anything, she explained, because they can just look and experience it.

Not only did the Ag tables have the welding demonstration, but another table had a model of an animal’s stomach and intestines. Yet another had floral bouquets for the floral design course.

Julian Villegas and Ethan Escobar are juniors and both in Future Farmers of America. They were offering information to students during the expo.

“I’ve been involved with FFA and Ag all throughout,” Villegas said. “Tanaka is a great teacher and finds a way to make it stick. I tell students it’s a really fun class and you’ll learn things you’ll always use like meats, for example, and the better cut to buy.”

Junior Audra Lacey was interested in learning life skills which was advertised in the course promotion a couple years ago.

“It seemed really, really fun,” she said and now has been in Ag classes all three years and is a Teacher’s Aid for Mr. Tanaka.

Both math teachers Elizabeth Veldsman and Kathy Michals favor the new format.

“This is much better,” said Veldsman.

“It creates a real sense of community to all be out here,” said Michals. Although the math table was a bit quiet, several parents and students had questions for Heidi Roberson, the Health Science Educator who has been teaching in Dixon for 12 years.

“I get a lot of questions,” said Roberson. “Parents want to know what I’m telling their students. I teach mental, emotional, and social health, disease prevention, even first aid.” Her course outline also includes alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; communication skills; and growth, development, and sexual health. She enjoys talking with parents and saw the Course Expo as a great way to build trust from them. Instruction is aligned with the Health Education Content Standards for California Public Schools K-12.

Students also got a chance to talk to sports leaders like Michael Vlach who is a computer science teacher but also leads the Water Polo Team. The Course Expo was hosted from 6 to 7:30 p.m. last Wednesday.

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