A weekend interview with Donna Houchen about the Great American Teach-In
On Thursday, parents, business people and community members across the Tampa Bay area and the country will head to schools to talk with kids about careers, hobbies and interests. It's an annual event aimed at giving children ideas about what they might want to do in the future. Donna Houchen, director of Hillsborough County's effort, spoke with reporter Jeff Solochek about the event. (File photo from the 2009 Teach-In)
Every year we have the Great American Teach-In. Why?
It's an opportunity for the community to come back to school and see what's going on. Also for the students to have an opportunity to see what's happening out in the community as well. It's a benefit to both groups. A lot of folks haven't been back to a school campus since they may have graduated from high school. So it allows them to see what's going on in the school system right now as well.
How do you choose the people who will be making presentations to make sure that kids get good, balanced representation of what they are hearing?
Part of it has to do with recruitment at the school level. We also, when I say screen, people will call us and say they are interested. We will try and connect them with a school that makes sense for them and also may have a curriculum that makes sense for the business as well.
Do you ever tell people, No?
Only if the topic is confrontational or controversial. We have some guidelines for topics that are appropriate for students.
So a good thing would be talking about being a doctor or a mechanic or something like that?
What we talk to folks about is they can talk to kids about their careers. They can let students know what their career is about, how they got into the career, what they need to consider if they want to go into that career. Also some of their hobbies. We have a lot of folks with very interesting hobbies that can be of interest to students, as well as skills. There may be skills they have that might be used in work or not. ... Each of those would be appropriate.
I remember a while back there was some concern about bringing live animals to schools because there was an accident. Was there ever any change to those rules?
By and large we are not bringing animals into the schools. The exception may be with law enforcement. I believe this year we have our canine unit as well as our mounted police who are coming. But because those are law enforcement there will be a difference at that level.
If someone still wants to come and make a presentation at a school, can they still do that?
Absolutely they can do that. Two ways they can do that. One is if they have a school they are interested in going to the Great American Teach-In, they can call the local coordinator at the school. ... They will get them set up. The other thing they can do is contact the SERVE office and we will get that arranged for them.
To participate, contact a local school or the Hillsborough SERVE office at 813-872-5254, the Pasco volunteer office at 727-774-2244, the Pinellas office of community involvement at 727-588-6405.