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New faculty leads GHS program in a new direction

 

Brittany Allen

NEW DIRECTION: Heather Gallagher is revamping the approach to the journalism program at GHS.

With the retirement of Laurie Wilhite and the recent hire of Heather Gallagher to take her place, Goldendale High School (GHS) has decided to take what used to be the journalism program in a more technical direction.

Gallagher, with her background in business and technical writing, hopes to teach students tools to help them do well in more technologically demanding and remote workplaces.

"I do think business English is very important," Gallagher said. "learning to write resumes, cover letters; learning about different kinds of business communication, including the digital world that we're in; understanding that there's a lot more than just pen and paper transpiring there's actual video conferencing, ...working from home, and for students to understand that the world is evolving into that. That there's lots of different options for you in the business world, evolving digitally."

According to Becky Bare, Career and Technical Education Supervisor at GHS, the changing times certainly helped to guide the direction of the new curriculum, but were not the only reason. Since Gallagher entered the position without teaching credentials, she will be undergoing training over the next few years to obtain the appropriate certification.

"I had always kind of given teaching a thought," Gallagher admits. "Teaching is something that I've always kind of wanted to do, I just didn't pursue that as my degree."

In the meantime, Gallagher's experience and degree in business administration, make her qualified to take over teaching the school's accounting class and to teach technical writing and possibly digital communications in the future. Both Bare and Gallagher have expressed interest in potentially creating an outlet through the school website for students to blog about current events in order to keep the community privy to school happenings.

According to Bare, another major reason for such a revision of the career and technical education curriculum is to keep it meeting the standards of the state.

"We're emphasizing technical writing, because we're kind of held accountable to what the State wants kids to finish with," says Bare. "Putting together a newspaper, when that's 90 percent or 80 percent of the workload-cropping pictures and doing that sort of thing is not the technical writing part. If we're saying to the state that 'yeah, these kids have had their fourth year of English through publications,' umm-maybe. It's very slim."

A main program change will affect published works put out by GHS; the Timberwolf Times will not be a part of the high school's curriculum-at least not for the time being-but the yearbook will remain part of Gallagher's publications class with the purpose of documenting annual academic events.

About this modification, former GHS teacher Laurie Wilhite has said that she does still see important lessons to be learned from the production of the newspaper, such as "working with each other, meeting deadlines, being accurate," and she sees "those skills as being applicable to many careers. However, she has also said, "We do need to stay current...With technologies emerging, I think we should be really sensitive to adding video and other applications: blogging and all of those things. Change is good. I've always told my students that flexibility is the most important job skill, and I've had to walk the talk and hold it true to myself too. I believe that anyone can learn a new software program or application, but flexibility comes from within. So it's important to be flexible in the job Market and try and gain the skills that will help you get a job when you get out there. As long as you have a wide base of skills that make you employable, because that's what we're in the business of."

Wilhite, though she wishes to be fully supportive of incoming new teacher Gallagher, also notes with gratitude all of the businesses that advertised with the Timberwolf Times over the years, including the Hood River News which published the monthly publication.

Besides that, Wilhite is very excited to be retired after 35 years of teaching and "for Heather to be coming on board." As someone who began her career teaching on manual typewriters, she does "understand that times change."

Gallagher and Bare seem to be ready for the challenge that change will bring and open to learning along the way. Of her time at GHS thus far, Gallagher has said:

"My experience so far has been great. I've been welcomed. I've enjoyed getting to know my students and learning from them as well."

 

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