Law Enforcement Teacher Helps Kids Find Career Path
District employee Melissa Howell assisted us with this story as part of our ongoing celebration of Career and Technical Education Month. We felt her experience "in the field" was best told in her own words.
I had the opportunity to interview a Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher and his students at Military Magnet MHS this week, in recognition of CTE month. My intention was to hear about a few “neat” things Mr. Earnest Cooper’s Law Enforcement students were learning, take a few photos, and be on my way to write up a small blurb.
But when I got there and met four inspirational seniors, I was completely amazed. I have never heard students speak so highly of their teacher. I asked each student what they thought of Mr. Cooper and his class. Each one responded with a pause, a smile, and the exact same response: “He has been a mentor to me.”
These four individuals told me in their own words that they would not be headed in the right direction now without this special teacher’s guidance. Each student was adamant in letting me know how much he or she looked up to Mr. Cooper.
Scott Hollins, who enjoys playing basketball, said he looks up to Mr. Cooper not only as a great teacher, but as a role model and coach with exemplary character.
LaQuetta Brown, who wants to be a lawyer and is the judge on Military Magnet’s Youth Court, said she enjoys how Mr. Cooper teaches different techniques on how to arrest people. LaQuetta credits Mr. Cooper for teaching her how to stay focused.
Ashley Thomas, who wants to be a dispatcher and created a senior project about Law Enforcement, told me that her “aha moment” happened when Mr. Cooper took the class on a job shadowing trip to City Hall her sophomore year. She knew she wanted to work in this field “Watching the dispatcher in action, answering calls to people who were in a crisis, made me realize I also want to help people.” She credited Mr. Cooper with helping her with personal issues that were holding her back. She said, “He has always been there.”
Bryan Heyward, who is going into the Army to be a military police officer, said that it was only after taking a career cluster test that he realized he no longer wanted to be an engineer. This testing-–a key component and benefit of CTE--highlighted his interest in flying planes and becoming a police officer. “Mr. Cooper has been talking to me about college courses in Criminal Justice. I wouldn’t be interested in the Law field or be headed in the direction I’m going today without Mr. Cooper as my mentor.” Bryan has done some training with the Mount Pleasant military police and looks forward to a future of helping people.
Mr. Cooper has been teaching Law Enforcement Education at Military Magnet Middle High School for several years. He has more than a decade of industry experience working in law enforcement and has worked as a school resource officer and adjunct college professor. When I asked Mr. Cooper what inspires him, he replied, “Building a society that has productive citizens.” He believes Career and Technical Education is a key part of building that ideal society; it’s important because it introduces students to the practical side of adulthood while incorporating hands on activities. He enjoys reaching out to students and meeting them on their level. But the best indicator of the type of teacher CCSD has in Mr. Cooper can be summed up with this quote from him: “If I share the knowledge that I have with one student. They will share it with a thousand others.”
My visit with Mr. Cooper and these four seniors was an inspiring and rejuvenating experience. It reminded me why I believe in public education and the power of CTE to change the futures of so many.
Melissa Howell, a certified Global Career Development Facilitator, is a CTE Data Analysis Coordinator for our CCSD High School Learning Community.