Visalia tech school changes name
Visalia Technical Education Center is now Visalia Technical Early College – a fitting name given that 35 percent of the graduates this year had earned more than 20 college credits.
VTEC is an accredited dependent charter school of Visalia Unified School District, located on the former College of the Sequoias farm at Linwood and Walnut avenues. Work to create the school began five years ago, and three years ago the first class came on campus as sophomores. That class graduated in June, including valedictorian Tuscany Auerbach, who graduated with 49.5 credits from COS.
“We focus on providing hands-on, project-based learning within the core subjects,” explained principal Victoria Porter. “We teach English, but students may read a forklift manual as part of the class – and then they go on to take the certification as a forklift operator. We integrate math and English in very practical ways. The students may be resistant initially to core subjects, but they get engaged.”
Every student must enroll in at least one class at COS each year. By the time they graduate, they are “savvy” because they don’t simply learn about college, they enroll and experience it, Porter says.
“Many of our students start out disengaged and a lot of them were not college bound,” she added. “We work with them to help them get enrolled and get certified in welding or as a veterinary technician. It’s very rewarding and energizing for our teachers to be so engaged with the students. We have the support of the school district, but the freedom to innovate.”
The 35-acre campus has undergone a $2.5 million remodeling and expansion project, now nearly complete, and at capacity will accommodate 350 students. The students offer a farmers’ market every Friday, selling their own produce and free-range eggs, and they will raise sheep, hogs, chickens and cows, and enter their animals in the Tulare County Fair.
The students choose from a variety of career pathways, such as horticulture, ag business and marketing, animal science and the newest pathway – construction. Working with COS, students will once again be able to experience building a home that is then sold.
The six teachers on staff bring to the classroom experience in the industry, in research and in the classroom, Porter explained. The campus is also supported by an advisory board of people representing organizations as diverse as the Workforce Investment Board, the Tulare County Farm Bureau, Saputo Cheese and the local carpenters’ union.
“Our students earn a traditional Visalia Unified School District diploma because we are accredited, but they also earn college credits. This school has been so successful – far beyond what we expected,” Porter added. “The land was donated by a farmer who wanted it used for ag education, and we have been true to that use.”
A “farm warming” with campus tours will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26. For information on Visalia Technical Early College, contact principal Victoria Porter at 622-3212 or visit www.vusd.org/vtec.