Staats uses virtual interviews to help students gain job-success skills

Kahrie Stegman
USD 382 Pratt JAG-K instructor Shaphan Staats and student Camden Nickelson work on job-skills tasks earlier during the 2019-2020 school year.

When classes moved online, teachers everywhere had to adapt and change many of their lesson plans. Pratt High School JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) teacher Shaphan Staats found a creative way to teach the students under the current coronavirus-affected circumstances, and the success of his virtual learning opportunities may even continue in the future.

There are three legs that JAG stands on that they call “The JAG Advantage.” These legs are Project Based Learning, Trauma Informed Care, and Employer Engagement (EE). In Kansas, this evidence-based program partners with public schools to ensure that students graduate with the necessary skills to succeed. Staats took his program at USD 382 one step further, finding a way to partner with successful graduates from Pratt High School to give his current students insight into the future.

“I had planned to have some EE opportunities at the end of the year for my students but that was wiped out by the Covid-19 situation,” Staats said. “In order to meet the EE piece, I came up with these zoom interviews.”

Staats replaced his previous EE plan by interviewing employers from across the United States. These people were a child/family lawyer from Texas, a financial controller for a construction company in Arizona, a P.E. teacher from Dodge City, a court services officer from Pratt, and the owner of a title sequence company from L.A., all were graduates of Pratt High Schools who had moved out into the wider world successfully.

“Our title-sequence company owner was pretty interesting,” Staats said. “He makes title sequences for movies and TV shows and has worked on some pretty famous stuff.”

Staats said wished he could have interviewed more employers, but he was limited by time.

“It takes a lot of time to record the interview and then edit it,” Staats said.

After Staats finished gathering and editing the interviews, he assigned the JAG students an assignment to watch an interview and answer a few questions about it.

“The assignment questions matched the interview questions and focused not only on the specific occupation, but also on what it takes to be successful, what employers look for when hiring individuals, and how important dependable people are to the success of business,” Staats said.

PHS sophomore Olivia Muntz said she learned from the interviews that being successful comes from being proud of what is accomplished.

“It takes passion, dedication and will,” Muntz said.

As Staats hoped, the students learned what it takes to be a good employee and what employers look for, not by just being told, but through the experience of someone else.

“Being consistent, people skills, and time management are key to being a good employee,” Muntz said. “This was a very helpful project.”

Seeing the value in interviewing employers from across the United States, Staats said he would like to continue to conduct interviews virtually to reach people far from Pratt. It makes learning experiences so much more personal, and memorable for the students, he said.