New freshmen Bartleby course emphasizes self-awareness, professional communication

Published 6:00 pm Friday, September 7, 2018

For students to be successful in today’s economy, they cannot wait till senior year to start thinking about a career or how to prepare for an interview. At Elizabethton High School, this begins freshman year.

All freshmen participate in Bartleby Cyclone Experience, a scaled-up version of the state’s Career Exploration Course which teaches Bartleby Core Values like self-awareness, communication, and leadership through projects. EHS is one of 18 XQ Super Schools in the nation working together to rethink high school — and the launch of this course in Fall 2018 is part of Bartleby’s new school-wide reach.

“Our Bartleby Cyclone Experience course is designed to build within students a foundation for life by allowing them to focus on their personal self-development in every area of their lives,” said Bartleby Director Terry Smith. “The 15 projects we have them complete throughout the course provide them with real-world opportunities that prepare them to achieve tremendously successful high school, college, and postgraduate careers.”

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Last week, students in Ryan Presnell’s class created resumes and participated in mock interviews with managers from a local accounting and consulting firm. For this project, they were graded as freshmen, but received feedback as if they were college graduates.

“This is a really cool opportunity for you to get to practice and learn some things without it counting against you for a real job,” Presnell told students. “It’s OK to be nervous and anxious — this is preparing you to deal with that.”

The two interviewers — managers in the tax department at Blackburn, Childers & Steagall — shared valuable advice with students prior to interviews. Sara Presnell explained the importance of understanding the job and expectations before going into the interview. Brandy Bradley said, “The main advice I would give you is to be able to talk about yourself, hold a conversation, and toot your own horn.”

Following the interviews, many students said they felt more confident going into an interview. Freshman T.J. Little said he loves talking to people, but this allowed him to do it in a professional manner. Freshmen Kyrstyn Kane said she likes the course’s emphasis on “people skills” and feels it has helped her personally.

“I think this was a good experience, and if we do these mock interviews and they tell us we’ve done well, then it will help us when we’re applying for our first jobs,” she said.

Mr. Presnell said that as a teacher, the course’s emphasis on project-based learning has actually made his job easier because students now share in the motivation and direction of the class. “The students are given ownership in what we do in the classroom,” he said. “I’m proud of our students because they drive everything that goes on in the school. I feel like we as teachers have a lot of responsibility for their success, but I just believe in these kids. All of this is a direct result of the type of students and the type of families we have in our school.”