Crafting a creative skill, CTE programs an important part of a students education


Emmet Cullen

Scott Manninen conversing with students on the latest class project, “[This class] is a place where kids fit in,” Manninen said.

After two years of restricted programs and freedom in hands-on classes, students are excited to get back to hands-on learning with CTE [Career and Technical Education] classes such as woodshop, photography, and auto shop, where students have the opportunity to learn valuable technical skills that lead directly to their career pathway of choice.

Woodshop, taught by teacher and swim coach, Scott Manninen, is a class where students have the opportunity to acquire the basic skills of woodworking and basic woodshop procedures.

“Number one [skill] is job site safety. Then measuring and math, use of machinery, blueprint reading, following instructions,” Manninen said.

Manninen was introduced to woodworking through his grandfather, who was a finished carpenter. Because of this, he had the tools, which sparked Manninen’s interest in building things, like a snowboard in the seventh grade. Having this skill has allowed him to make a difference in not only his life but others. 

“It just came naturally. This career choice is perfect for me because I’m coming from a point of view where I understand my clientele,” Manninen said. “I understand my students.”

Manninen represents a doorway to hands-on career paths for students. He speaks about how everyone makes a change in their way; how important these particular kinds of jobs are for the world to work.

“There are two types of jobs in the world. There are jobs where you wake up and take a shower before you go to work, [and] there are jobs where you take a shower after work, the world needs both,” Manninen said.  

Students enjoy the class almost as much as Manninen does, including junior Erik Schwartz being an active participant. A woodshop classroom is a place where hands-on learners can thrive, Schwartz is one of those students.

“For CTE I am in the woodshop fine cabinetry class. I chose it because I enjoy woodworking and I’ve been in woodshop classes since sixth grade,” Schwartz said.

There are two types of jobs in the world. There are jobs where you wake up and take a shower before you go to work, [and] there are jobs where you take a shower after work, the world needs both

— Scott Mannien

Another CTE pathway class is photography; a class that is currently being taken over by Emmet Cullen who has made a recent transfer from teaching in Buena’s history department for the past nine years. Cullen had originally started his photography career when he went overseas to Iraq, as a U.S. soldier he wanted to capture what life is like for the families and children experiencing the effects of war. He wanted American citizens to understand what they are going through and to have an understanding of both sides.

“I started carrying a point-and-shoot camera around and taking pictures of everything but I couldn’t keep up with the kind of shots I was trying to get,” Cullen said. 

Photography gives people a different perspective and voice than writing does. There’s only so much that speaking about an issue can do to solve it. Through photos photographers can shape an entire story to evoke strong emotions which is a powerful tool in life.

“I would turn on the news and the news that was being reported was not what was happening on the streets,” Cullen said.

From a student’s point of view, it can be a fun hobby to edit and perfect social media posts, but it can also go deeper if a student expresses an immense admiration and drive to work for the skill. It’s something that should be worked on over time and always has the next level. Maddison Easter, a Junior here at Buena, is an excellent example of a student branching out and trying expanding her skills.

“Don’t expect to be good at photography the first time you try it,” Easter said. “Don’t stress if it takes a couple of tries to figure out what types of pictures you’re interested in and that you’re good at taking.”

Welding, taught by teacher Derek Metz, is a class where students are taught how to safely use tools and to create projects made from metal. They also learn foundational welding and fabrication skills that can be applied to future certifications and careers.

“A knowledge of welding and fabrication is useful to a wide variety of fields and career paths from manufacturing and construction to aerospace industries,” Metz said. “It can also be an avenue for individual expression through the creation of sculpture and art.”

This CTE class is an excellent way for students to gain experience in welding and using skills found in trade. CTE classes allow students to safely explore possible future career paths, learning valuable life skills; all while doing so in the safety and comfort of a classroom.