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Educators are Innovators: Jessica Galati gets hands-on with approach to career readiness

Published Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Jessica Galati

Jessica Galati (BCSD photo)

In the past, a student would receive a survey, answer several questions and then be provided a list of potential careers of interest.

That IS NOT how Berkeley County School District career specialist Jessica Galati serves her students. As a National Award Finalist for the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Mrs. Galati is recognized from coast to coast as not just a person that connects students with potential career paths, but someone who is leading innovation in career exploration and development.

Administrators say her impact within BCSD is huge. She’s assigned to students grade 3-12 at schools in Hanahan and Goose Creek, and whether it’s a senior at Hanahan High or a 6th-grader at Marrington Middle School of the Arts, those around her say she does an amazing job of meeting with teachers and connecting what’s learned in core subject areas to life.

"She is very intentional in terms of working with the teachers,” said Marrington Middle School of the Arts Principal Dara Harrop. “She’s always looking for that relevance and a way to tie in a career path with something the students are learning in other classes. She’s always looking for additional ways she can make what we do in a math or a science class relevant to these kids.”

Mrs. Galati is not just preparing students for careers. She says to best prepare them for the workforce, you have to first prepare them for life. Essential soft skills like problem-solving and collaboration find their way into her regular lessons with students. She also works with students on financial literacy and regularly holds exercises on managing a life crisis.

“Life skills, financial literacy, the importance of taxes – our children need to know that,” Mrs. Galati said.

While career readiness is a focus, she argues preparing students for life after school is the priority.

“It goes a lot deeper than just telling kids about careers. For me, it’s about exposure and letting them know there are so many possibilities out there for them – some that an assessment will not suggest. We do the assessments, and those have a role, but especially being in middle school, their aspirations can change every year,” she said.

Through classroom lessons and lunch and learn programs, employers are visiting with Mrs. Galati's students twice a month. From historians and bakers to welders and bankers, students are introduced to career clusters in as many hands-on ways as possible. They are informed of the job and soft skills needed to be successful.

For example, one recent lesson included a visit from a local veterinarian, during which students were taught how to retrieve the vital signs/measurements of animals brought to the school.

“I try to make it as fun as possible for them,” she said. “I want them excited when they see me. I want it to be fun, and it seems to be that way.”

That desire to make career education fun and exciting is what Principal Harrop says makes Mrs. Galati an amazing educator.

“It’s her willingness to take things one step further. She really does take things that extra mile,” Ms. Harrop said. "...Career fairs aren’t even in the traditional fashion.”

Instead of a large group of students wandering amongst a sea of tables, students are broken into smaller groups and connected directly with those representing careers of their interest.

“It makes it more meaningful all the way around,” Ms. Harrop said. “She does the same thing with field trips. Kids interested in aeronautics get to spend some time with those currently in a related career

When it comes right down to it, Mrs. Galati said she wants to provide opportunities and insight she never experneiced.

“That’s the stuff that I never got in high school or middle school,” she said. “So I make it a priority. Having knowledge, having those soft skills will translate over into their adult life and also have an impact on their careers.”

Mrs. Galati will travel to California for the ACTE Excellence Awards and conference in December.

* The ACTE is the nation’s largest not-for-profit association committed to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers. ACTE represents the community of CTE professionals, including educators, administrators, researchers, school counselors, guidance and career development professionals and others at all levels of education. ACTE is committed to excellence in providing advocacy, public awareness and access to resources, professional development and leadership opportunities.

Brian Troutman