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Tyler-Area Schools Start Students on Paths to Success

The Tyler region boasts a vast selection of educational offerings, providing students with the resources they need for a bright future.

By Val Hunt Beerbower on September 14, 2021

The Tyler region boasts a vast selection of educational offerings, as Smith County alone has eight independent school systems. These include Winona ISD, Whitehouse ISD, Troup ISD, Lindale ISD, Chapel Hill ISD, Bullard ISD, Arp ISD and Tyler ISD – and each of them is working hard to ensure students have the resources they need to succeed.

In Tyler, residents recently doubled down on their commitment to quality education, passing a $198 million bond package that helped restructure Tyler High School and Tyler Legacy High School. Each campus received new facades and learning spaces, including interactive classrooms, science labs and collaboration areas. Athletic facilities were upgraded, as well, including adding a new indoor athletic center with a 70-yard synthetic surface and 187-square-foot weight rooms. There are also newly designed fine arts wings for studio and classroom space; stage and prop production; band, orchestra and choir rooms; and drill team dance studios. The schools’ renovated Fine Arts Centers now feature LED stage lighting, dressing rooms and storage. Also added were high tech media centers (libraries) and synthetic surface courtyards as the hub of student collaboration and gathering spaces for both high schools.

Amy Pawlak, public relations coordinator for Tyler ISD, explains how the school district is also identifying needs in the local workforce and helping connect students to good jobs in the region. This allows these companies to thrive and reinvest in the community, as well.

“The Career & Technology Center (part of Tyler ISD) serves hundreds of high school students,” Pawlak says. “A wide variety of options allow students to explore career pathways and earn certificates and licenses before they graduate high school.”

Tyler ISD also partners with local colleges to provide opportunities for students to earn dual credit and get a jump start on their postsecondary plans. Early College High School (ECHS) is an application-based high school in partnership with Tyler Junior College (TJC), where students can earn an associate degree, or approximately 60 dual credit hours, while earning a high school diploma at the same time. Over the past two years, more than 140 ECHS students graduated high school with associate degrees from TJC.

“Students graduate ECHS ready to go directly into the workforce or continue their postsecondary education at colleges and universities,” Pawlak says. “ECHS earned six Texas Education Agency academic distinctions in 2019.” In addition to TJC, students have plenty of options for other postsecondary education choices, including The University of Texas at Tyler and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. The University of Texas System recently announced it will establish a medical school in Tyler – the first in East Texas – to increase access to health care in the region.

Career and technical education (CTE) programs are also prominent here. Tyler ISD offers 26 programs of study for students to choose from to best fit their interests. Within these programs, students can earn industry certifications that can help them become employable directly out of high school or qualify them to continue their education in trade schools or universities.

The Tyler ISD CTE Work- Based Learning Program creates meaningful interactions with industry or community professionals to engage students in various career fields. Experiences may take place at the work site, in the classroom or virtually and can include workplace tours, job shadowing, school-based enterprises, internships and apprenticeships.

“We work a lot with our business community to find opportunities for our students in all of our different programs of study, including health sciences, marketing, engineering and manufacturing, and many other areas,” Tyler ISD Work-Based Learning Coordinator Jessica Brown says. “It is more than just going in and filing papers. Students are actually getting hands-on experience and connecting what they’ve learned in the classroom to what is happening in the workplace.”

Wesley Hamm, general manager at Hood Packaging, a supplier of various paper, plastic and poly-woven packaging products in Tyler, understands the importance of strong relationships between educational systems and the local workforce.

“By participating in Tyler ISD’s career and technical education program, we are contributing back to our community,” Hamm says. “We really want to enhance and bring more professionals to the community, and providing these experiences to students now, we believe, will help to do that in the future.”

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