When Ellie Peavey accepted the newly created position of career education teacher at Cicero-North Syracuse High School in 1989, "Everybody looked at me like I had three eyes," she said. "Nobody had any idea what career education was -- not even me."
But as the Career Center celebrates its 20th anniversary, Peavey's effort to make career education a key part of the curriculum has provided students with many opportunities to focus on a career path before they graduate.
"I've always said that teaching should answer the question of 'Why do I have to learn this? When am I ever going to use this?'" said Peavey, who was named 2008 District Teacher of the Year and Plank Road Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year. "If you can make it relevant, kids will buy into it."
The Career Center, founded in the 1988-89 school year, initially aimed to bridge the gap between those students who wanted to attend college and those who didn't. Evelyn Dankovich, former chair of the Career Education Advisory Council, a group of about 40 business owners and teachers of all grade levels, wrote a three-year federal grant to fund the program in 1988. Advisory Council members helped to identify key people in the community representing professions that students could use as a resource, she said.
"I hoped that students, parents and business people would lobby behind the program to keep it, and it didn't take a whole lot of convincing. We had a lot of success in those first three years," Peavey said.
At the end of 1992, the district adopted it into the budget, and it has been "an integral part of what North Syracuse wanted to offer," Dankovich said.
Dankovich recommended that Peavey apply for the position. "She had the enthusiasm and need to work with young people and to have them achieve all that they can, in finding a direction that fits them," Dankovich said.