By: Claude Milot

Years ago, accepted wisdom among educators was that not all kids were college material, and that those who weren’t should be taught a trade. How things have changed! Today, skilled trades are in high demand and require specialized training.

Meet Jill Cohen, Director of Career and Technical Education (CTE) for Perquimans County schools. Jill is without a doubt an experienced and credentialed educator.

Born in upstate New York, she earned a BS degree in Home Economics from the State University of New York at Plattsburg. With sheepskin in hand, she chose the most difficult teaching assignments she could find, first at Manhattan’s Jewish Guild for the Blind, and then Cardinal Hayes Home for challenged children in Millbrook, New York.

Jill went back to school to earn a Master’s degree in Science Education from Queens College, City University of New York. After teaching junior high school in Wappingers Falls, New York, she took on an-other difficult assignment, teaching adjudicated youth (juvenile offenders) for 18 years at Manchester, New Hampshire’s Youth Development Center.

This brings us to 2006 when Jill and her husband Larry came to Albemarle Plantation. But Jill wasn’t finished teaching. While Larry was checking out the golf course on their first visit to AP, Jill visited Perquimans County Schools’ Human Resource Department. She was immediately hired to replace the retiring teacher of the High School’s Family and Consumer Science program (formerly known as Home Economics), a position she held from 2006 to 2011.

And Jill wasn’t finished with her own education. She earned another Masters, this one in School Administration from Elizabeth City State University. She also boosted her credentials with a National Board Certification. To top it all off, she would eventually be named NCACTE Northeast Regional Career and Technical Education Administrator of the Year in 2018-2019. But it was in 2015 that Jill found her true calling when she was appointed the administrator for Career and Technical Education.

CTE starts in Middle School where students in grades 6 through 8 can begin to explore a path to the future. Biotechnology, computer science, and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines are inquiry-based exploratory courses that engage young minds in critical thinking. By the time they get to high school, they are ready to specialize in ad-vanced courses pointing to careers in agriculture, automotive, business, health science, fire technology, and more. Students are required to take core academic courses (English, Math, Science, Social Studies) not only for a well-rounded education, but also to prepare them for college, if that is their goal. By senior year, students can earn the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), nationally recognized workplace credentials for employability.

The focus of CTE is not just on jobs, but on careers. For example, health science courses can give students a head start on careers in the medical field, maybe even a first step on the way to medical school.

CTE also tries to reinforce classroom learning with experience in a chosen field. Working part time in hospitals or as business interns or advanced manufacturing pre-apprentices introduces students to the workplace environment.

Jill Cohen is not only a teacher, she is also a dreamer. She is already envisioning a new building next to the high school that would have a lab, rooms for woodworking and metals (think welding), a greenhouse, a kitchen, and space for a firetruck. All she needs is money. We can build new sports facilities, so why not a CTE Center?

Jill has made a career of taking on tough assignments. Don’t count her out on this one.