EFE Students Prepared for Online Work

Dr. Noreen Heikes received a Distinguished alumni award virtually on May 1 from Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine as part of their graduation ceremony. Her program was recognized for its Career and Technical Education Program Excellence in Practice Award from the Michigan Department of Education in 2016, and Excellence in Education award in 2019. The past two years Dr. Heikes coordinated a voluntary field trip for students to South Africa to work hands-on with wildlife and conservation veterinarians. Among many additional initiatives in her local community, she has implemented a cat fostering program for students housed in her veterinary science classroom and provides leadership opportunities for her students through the FFA-Future Farmers of America and HOSA-Future Health Professionals organizations.

By Rob Peterson

As a veterinarian, Vicksburg High School teacher Noni Heikes was certain the schools would be shut down due to the coronavirus. “Our lesson (in Veterinary Science) just before this happened was on genetics and RNA,” she said, so her students were also aware of the need for a quarantine to control the virus.

She was prepared for online learning more than most teachers because her Education for Employment (EFE) students come from all over the Kalamazoo Regional Education Service Agency district, and they had remote classes two days a week.

The three days of classroom work, however, were vital to the learning process. “The kids’ questions can engage them because it shows what they’re interested in,” she said. “No lesson in the history of teaching has ever gone as you planned it,” and being in the same space helps a teacher to react and guide the learning process.

She is concerned that some of her students are out of the habit of studying already, and some have even taken on jobs with the extra time. “I will be working with them on time management, but since the work doesn’t count towards graduation, I have to focus on the kids who want to learn.”

While she was prepared to teach her classes online, she was not prepared to learn that “the sun still comes up when I’m not the one doing everything.” Heikes is known for taking on an abundance of projects; her class trip to South Africa is, for the moment, still scheduled for this summer. But she intends to take on less in the future.

“There are so many great projects, though, so I’ll be recruiting volunteers to help with opportunities like Future Farmers for America.”

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