Olentangy's three high schools offer elective classes that give students experience in various careers, school officials said.

Olentangy's three high schools offer elective classes that give students experience in various careers, school officials said.

Teacher academy and mentorship courses provide students with in-the-field exploration of various professions

The teacher academy students work with district teachers in their classrooms. Mentorship courses include education, photography, the culinary arts and physical therapy.

"It is a great opportunity to get more experience in the career field of my choice," said Arielle Flynn, Olentangy High School (OHS) senior, in an e-mail. Flynn is enrolled in the mentorship course.

Flynn's mentorship site is Klatte Photography in Powell.

"I have learned a lot about the photography business and what it takes to own your own business. I also learned more about being responsible and working within specific deadlines," she wrote.

The classes have been offered for about 14 years and were developed as part of the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994, said Linda Shank, OHS mentorship coordinator

"The idea was to have (students) gain transferable skills," Shank said. "It's unbelievable the skills that they develop: time management, decision-making skills, and personal and communication skills."

Students spend five weeks with the class teacher, working on professional development and preparing for the placement portion of the class. That's followed by 10 weeks at the mentoring site for six to eight hours per week, totaling at least 60 hours of experience, Shank said.

Recent mentoring experiences have been with an orthopedic surgeon, a coach at Otterbein, attorneys at Scotts Miracle-Gro, a physical therapist at Westminster-Thurber Community and with the law firm Heald & Long.

OHS senior Allyson Bayless completed her mentorship experience at Cameron Mitchell's Marcella's Italian Kitchen on Polaris Parkway.

"I took this career class to gain a better understanding of the field I want to specialize in, which is culinary," Bayless wrote in an e-mail. "I also chose this class to strengthen my decision on what college to attend. I learned how a restaurant works. At times, it is a fast-paced environment, but very fun. One thing that I learned at this site, which is the most important in life, is to prioritize."

Through the teacher academy, students can earn college credit, Shank said.

"We have an agreement with various colleges -- including Bowling Green, University of Cincinnati and Ashland University -- that will give college credit for early-experience courses, such as the freshman experience courses that are five hours of credit," she said.

At the end of the semester, students give presentations on their programs and research, Shank said. Teacher academy students develop their own lesson plans and include those plans with their presentation and portfolio.

The mentorship and teacher academy classes are an asset to the district, said Tom McDonnell, OHS principal.

"Students have a great advantage by taking these classes, because they get a taste of what the real world is about. They don't have to go to college or graduate school to figure out that a field might be for them or might not be for them. They're getting that experience and it helps students narrow the focus of their field or rule some options out. It's a great transition from high school to college," he said.

Students at the three Olentangy high schools are preparing their schedules for the 2010-2011 school year.