“Today is kind of a unique setting. This is the first lab of its kind in the state of Tennessee. We are leading the way,” said Bill Moss, Wilson County career technical education supervisor. “You look at the lab equipment and think this is just for a bunch of high achieving young people. Rethink that. Yes. It’s for all students, but we’re teaching a concept – how to problem solve, how to research and do things – and we’re excited about that.”
Moss said the lab and program took about two years to create, and the idea rose from a conversation with Lebanon High School principal Scott Walters and science teacher Melissa Bunch.
“Our goal is really two fold. We want to grow scientists, and we want to support the workforce need we have in our state,” Bunch said. “There are so many opportunities for our students. There are over 700 biotech and life science companies in the state, and they need workers with everything from a high school diploma all the way up.”
Bunch worked closely with Volunteer State Community College staff to create the program.
“You’re creating a pathway from high school to community college to university and beyond. The sky is the limit. We’re very excited about this program,” said Volunteer State Community College president Jerry L. Faulkner, who said skills student learn in the course will serve them well in most careers.
“One of the most important things you can do with a program like this is train students when they leave they can enter any kind of research or laboratory – basically any kind of science environment – and be comfortable, relaxed and competent so they contribute almost from day one,” said Joe Dolan, Vol State biology faculty member.
Bunch said although the course associated with the lab is a CTE course, the academic side of the course is vital.
“Somebody asked me not long ago why this a CTE course and not an academic course. This is an academic course. This is a college-level, very rigorous academic program, and it is a CTE, because we are trying to provide that workforce that our area needs,” said Bunch, who said the two worlds collide in the course.
“When you think of CTE, you might have an old concept of CTE. That is not what CTE is any longer. It is academic. It is college preparedness. It is workforce development.”
And praise for the program was shared among Wilson County Schools’ leaders, as well.
“Melissa Bunch never gave up,” said Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright. “I appreciate that about her, because it showed how serious she was about not only developing it, but also making it state of the art. There is nothing like this anywhere in the state of Tennessee. In fact, this is the model that will be replicated elsewhere based on her dreams and her idea.”