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Spotlight on South County Career Center
Feb 11, 2010 - 11:27:43 PM

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 By Julie Ball
Don Chase is more than your average high school teacher to South County Career Center (SCCC). He has brought so much success to his classes that the school named him teacher of the year. He will compete against a wider pool across Hillsborough County for the county teacher of the year distinction.

“It would be an honor to win county-wide for this school,” said Chase. “South County is not well known to people in and out of our community.”

Chase is the reading teacher at a school that pushes dropout prevention amongst its students. Last year, his first year at SCCC, he taught reading to students in the auto and culinary programs only. This year, Chase expanded and now teaches reading across the board, to students in every program.
South County Career Center’s Teacher of the Year Don Chase will compete against other outstanding teachers for the coveted title of Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year.

Spotlight on South County Career Center is a career-oriented school aimed at high school age students living in South Hillsborough County. Through academic remediation and technical training students earn their Florida High School Equivalency Diploma while acquiring skills necessary to enter the workforce.
With the constantly growing dropout rate amongst high school students, SCCC is an option for students who have dropped out of their neighborhood high school or on the borderline of not graduating.

Students admitted to South County must be at least 16 years old, one year behind in school, have no record of severe discipline problems and want to focus on a career to learn while completing core graduation classes.

Don Chase has mastered a way to reach out to these students where other teachers have failed. “We at SCCC, as teachers, understand where they are coming from.  We can peak these students’ interests and make learning easy for them,” said Chase.

“I try and teach them in a hands-on way so they are out of their element but still not discouraged. The idea is to send kids out successfully to go and work out of their chosen field.”

The various career paths offered by the school include Army JROTC, automotive technology, building construction technology, culinary arts, digital design, first responder, marketing education, medical office assistant, nursing assistant, and web design.

“The career paths students can choose lead to higher paying jobs for them right after high school because they are trained and skilled in a trade, in addition to having a diploma,” said Chase.

Don Chase humbly credits the tremendous success of SCCC not to himself, but to the school and staff as a whole. “We are really a team atmosphere. I am honored to work with so many highly qualified people who are willing to go the extra mile to help our students,” boasted Chase.

Don developed his teaching technique while teaching English as a second language in South Korea for six years. “Over there it was really trial by fire that got me by. I call my technique ‘edu-tainment’. It is a mix of education and entertainment,” said Chase.

“I also try to celebrate small successes. It can be as small as me finally explaining a concept to a student in a way that they fully understand. We celebrate with a fist pump or a high five. I also celebrate their other successes including good citizenship, getting good grades in other classes and having no tardies. Some of the students could be going through trials and tribulations in their home life. I make school a place they enjoy instead of dread.”

Don also tries not to embarrass students or single them out. “I try not to call them up in front of the class. If I need to reprimand them, we have a one on one talk at my desk. Sometimes I have one on ones to praise them too,” said Chase.

South County Career Center knows they cannot make every student graduate but with teachers like Don Chase on their side they create a safety net that keeps the drop out rates at a minimum.

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