“Look out below!” echoes as the newest shower of welding sparks cascades to the floor. I glance up, but I can’t determine the source of either. Barry doesn’t miss a beat, as he continues to shout over the sound of air compressors, “I always say, you can teach a math class, or you can teach math. We’ve given these kids the opportunity to build a national landmark. They are motivated to find out how they can use the Pythagorean Theorem so their Lighthouse is still standing and structurally sound 500 years from now. How many high school students are thinking about their future? Even two weeks ahead?! These high school students are building something for their great grandchildren to be proud of!”
…’their Lighthouse’ resonates in my head, again and again.
Barry Crist is the proud principal of Fayette Institute of Technology (FIT), in Oak Hill, WV. This year, FIT’s welding technology class is erecting a nationally registered landmark— a 120ft lighthouse that shines across Summersville Lake. And while this alone makes a worthwhile story, this was just our first classroom in Barry’s tour. Members of NASCAR Pit Crews frequent Barry’s automotive class— usually just visiting Larry Nunnery, the instructor who changed their lives forever, and taking a moment out of their busy lives to encourage any student who doesn’t see the direct connection between that classroom and their future. Needless to say, that type of students is quite rare at FIT.
In fact, this is the biggest factor separating FIT from other schools: their ability to forge the inherent mental connection of “Today’s classroom attention equals tomorrow’s retirement pension.” Last year, 96% of Barry’s enrollment met the state standard WESTEST Scores! The state average was at 44%. (The second best high school in the state was only at 75%!) Barry uses the WIN System to teach and remediate his students on an individual level, in real time. Through our partnership, FIT graduated 98% of students at their target reading level, 98% of students in science, and 95% of students in math.
While FIT’s numbers are so far off the charts, it would be impossible to say these results are typical. Nonetheless, their facilities, region, and funding, their story, is. It looks just like your typical vo-tech school, in your typical rural community. But results speak volumes.
Barry casually reminds us these students are merely getting warmed up. They have found their element and are seeking fulfillment in their future careers. Many plan to seek out some of the most advanced certifications in their fields, offered at unique facilities on off-shore oil rigs or international production lines. Thoughts of any untapped potential in his students give me cold chills. I played soccer in high school. These students are building a landmark. But as Barry says, the problem with setting the bar high is the thought that we should set it. Our focus is to teach students to set their own goals far beyond our expectations, or for that matter, our imaginations. Their goals. Their Lighthouse.
Thanks again for letting me be a part of this. I love my job!