Steve Cronin, Shepherd High School, Shepherd, Texas
Steve Cronin of Shepherd High School prepares his agriculture mechanic students to be capable of working within their community volunteering their time and abilities toward service projects by building their safety and technical skills. Safety is one of the intrinsic elements of career and technical education and Cronin is certain that requiring a workplace safety education component to his curriculum is important in preparing his students not only for community and leadership projects, but also as they leave his classroom. According to Cronin, part of what drove his passion to be a CTE teacher is the fact that career and technical education needs encouragement and advocacy for the future.
“I tell my kids they are going to deal with safety issues all of their lives. The more that you can see and understand the need for safety, then hopefully you will not be affected by or affect someone else [negatively],” said Cronin about the need for safety training for his students. He trains his students on all of the equipment they will be handling—showing them both the proper way to handle tools and the improper way that can lead to injuries.
He provides his students with OSHA 10-Hour safety training because he sees the value in giving his students comprehensive safety training. As agriculture mechanic students, Cronin believes their education necessitates safety training. When asked how OSHA training has impacted his students, Cronin explained, “They are able to see the importance of many aspects of safety that might affect them in the workplace that I may not teach in my shop such as guarding against bloodborne pathogens. I teach fall hazards, equipment safety, and a lot of construction related topics. [The training] gives a broader aspect of safety that they still need.”
With an industry recognized credential in workplace safety, Cronin sees a shift in confidence with his students when they receive documentation of their accomplishments. He believes that certifications and credentials are instilling in his students the motivation to achieve more and reach another level of maturity.
His students are making an impressive impact on their local community; Cronin shares that his students volunteer, host food drives and gather for Christmas caroling but also take part in many service projects that give them valuable experience related to the agriculture field. Throughout the year, Cronin’s students work on the construction and maintenance of a community garden which is harvested and donated to local food pantries and people in need.
“Students have also built a chicken coop for laying hens which they feed and collect eggs from. They find it rewarding to be in charge of and taking care of these birds…We donate eggs primarily to the elderly who have a set income. We get to see a lot of smiles involved in donating eggs and vegetables. It’s fulfilling for our students to give back and make a difference in people’s lives,” said Cronin.
Cronin and other agriculture teachers at Shepherd High School have also joined the non-profit organization, Lake Livingston Friends of Reservoirs (LLFoR) with other local schools to help with the restoration of fish, vegetation and wildlife habitat in the lake. Students use a greenhouse to grow and propagate American Water Willow throughout the year which is transplanted to their aquatic tanks and other schools’ tanks to continue to mature. To date, Shepherd High School and other schools have planted over 2,000 plants at planting sites across the lake. “Our students really enjoy the opportunity to help restore the habitat…it will help fish flourish and nurture the lake’s ecosystem,” said Cronin.
Cronin believes that the work he and the agriculture department offer their students helps give them experience to take with them to become successful members of society. Cronin is modest in the success of his students and says that without the collaboration of the entire agriculture department, they would not have the success of they do. It is clear that these students are making great strides in earning valuable experience within their CTE program that would not be possible without the support and encouragement of Steve Cronin and the rest of CTE agriculture department at Shepherd High School.