MHS Seniors Gain Real Life Work Experience
An inside look at the "Structured Learning" internship program at Mahwah HS
Each week Patch sits down with individuals who contribute to the high standards of education in Mahwah, and asks them a few questions to get to know them better.
This week Patch talks to Mahwah High School teacher and Structured Learning Coordinator, Meaghan Monahan about the importance of student internships and how they help foster responsibility, communication and other essential employment and life skills.
How long have you been a teacher in Mahwah?
MM: “19 years teaching in NJ and 16 in Mahwah.”
What do you teach?
MM: “I teach Life Skills and Transition Planning as well as Coordinate the Structured Learning program.”
Tell us a little about your background.
MM: “I come from a long family line of teachers ranging from kindergarten to college professors. \My parents are both retired teachers, dad 37 years in Brooklyn, NY and mom 26 years Clifton, NJ. I graduated from Mt. St. Mary College in Newburgh, NY with a Bachelor of Arts and then went to Felician College to get my Elementary certification. I began teaching in the same middle school I attended as a student in Clifton. I then went on to get my Special Education Certificate at Felician College and a full time position in Mahwah. After just one year in Mahwah, I completed my Masters Degree as a Reading Specialist from Jersey City State College.”
You are the Coordinator for the Structured Learning Program at MHS. Tell me about your position and the program.
MM: “This position is six years new to Mahwah High School. I was in the first class of educators to be part of an endorsement program given by the NJ Department of Education. I have to thank the administration in Mahwah for supporting this program. My role is to build strong community relations with local business and assist students in getting placed in these sites for an internship that matches their career interest. The students all have a Student Training Plan that aligns the tasks that they do with the NJ Core Content Standards. I monitor the students throughout the school year making site visits every two weeks. While I am there, I talk to the site mentor about the student’s experience and problem solve any issues that might come up. The students are required to turn in journals and time sheets based on the time they interned, which I grade and comment on. Students can receive up to 20 high school credits if they have successfully met the requirements of the program by June. Besides the journals, the students are required to complete and present a final project, like a portfolio or power point presentation. The intern site mentors also contribute by filling out assessments on each intern which is also reflected in their grade.
The official definition from the NJDOE is: A Structured Learning Experience (SLE) (N.J.A.C. 6A:19-1.2, NJDOE) means experiential, supervised educational activities that are designed to provide students with exposure to the requirements and responsibilities of specific job titles, and to assist them in gaining employment skills and making career and educational decisions. A structured learning experience may either be paid or unpaid, depending on the type of activities in which the student is involved. All structured learning experiences must adhere to applicable State and Federal child labor laws and other applicable regulations of the State Department of Education and Labor. Structured Learning Experiences may include, but are not limited to: apprenticeships, community service, internships, job shadowing, volunteer activities.”
What do the student's gain from this program?
MM: “Students gain so much from each individual experience. First, they learn basics such as responsibility, communications, taking direction, being on time, working with others and sense of pride. Students commit to doing a good job and see that through. They create professional relationships with the staff with which they work and learn a trade or part of one. For example, the students who want to be teachers and are interning in Mahwah elementary school get to see how a school is run. They get firsthand experience working with students as well as how a classroom is set up and what needs to be done to make it run smoothly. Another student has interned at the Bergen County Law and Public Safety Institute right here in Mahwah. He was able to sit in on a variety of classes for first year police officers. This student then wrote about his experience in his college essay and was accepted to John Jay College in Manhattan.
W. G. Brown Architecture in Wyckoff accepted an SLE student intern based on his portfolio from the Auto-cad class here at Mahwah High School. This student’s work is now displayed right in the guidance Department. I could go on and on about all the great experiences that the students have had. It is so rewarding to know that the time and effort we have put into this program continues to be so effective and so fulfilling.”
Is this program open to all MHS students?
MM: “The program is open to all seniors who are on track for graduation. They must be in good standing at the end of junior year, and go through an application process and interview their junior year.”
What's the one lesson you hope your students take away from this program?
MM: “The one lesson that I hope students take away from the program is that they all can be contributing members of society. It can start at the high school level in the SLE program and then continue into life after high school.”
What's one thing people may not know about you?
MM: “One thing most people do not know about me is that I did not have a successful first year in college. I could have given up but instead with the support and guidance of my parents I pushed through. I credit that experience with my need to push all students to be the best that can be with whatever they choose.”
What's the funniest thing that's ever happened to you at school?
MM: “One day I walked into the teacher’s room before school and realized that I had two different colored shoes on. One red and one blue, after laughing out loud at myself I turned it into a lesson for the students- Problem solving!"