Technology provides conduit for student connections
The Gladstone School District only just hired Applied Technology teacher Dusty Long in 2021, but he’s already proved himself to be an Amazing Educator worthy of regional attention who has made a big impact on students.
Long immediately noticed a need for more technology classes, so he proposed to administrators and school board members adding five Information Technology courses, computer science, cybersecurity and game design. His request was successful in doubling the number of CTE courses available for Gladstone students, in part because the data shows that CTE contributes to the outstanding participation and graduation rates, with more than 95% of Gladstone students who took or concentrated in CTE classes graduating on time.
More than 87% of students in the district are currently taking CTE classes during the current school year, and through Long’s new IT pathway, students earn tech certifications and college credits while in high school. Long also finds time to coach the school’s robotics team.
“He’s also doing his part to keep students engaged in the school community, with last year’s launch of a new e-sports team that competes in online gaming with teams nationwide. Many students in the club had not previously been involved in afterschool activities,” said district spokesperson Leslie Robinette.
Long wants to prepare students for in-demand family-wage careers in coding, game and application design, website development, software engineering and data administration right out of high school. For just $10 per credit, students can earn four to six college credits per class (up to 22 total) in the IT Pathway, thereby starting college with sophomore standing. They can also take exams to earn CompTIA Industry Certifications.
“Our information technology pathway will provide Gladstone students with industry-level experience in computer science and information technology,” Long said. “Both fields continue to see tremendous growth, so we want to ensure Gladstone students are prepared for these high-wage, high-demand jobs.”
Students were enthusiastic about the new program. GHS senior Cecilia Quintero planned to take three of the courses in her final year of high school, and junior Nicholas Hartzog planned to take all five. Both are preparing for technology careers.
“Technology is the cornerstone to future living, and the certifications in this class can take you pretty far,” said junior Nicholas Hertzog. “It’s fun, and I’ll be expanding my skills as technology advances.”
With over 30 members, Long’s new e-sports team is one of the largest activities at the school, launched in January 2022, thanks to an $8,000 grant from the Gladstone Education Foundation. The teens gather in the tech lab playing various virtual reality games, from Fortnite to Madden. They competed nationally through a Valorant game with a team from another state.
The teens play seven online games, including Minecraft, Valorant, Rainbow Six, NBA IIK and chess, against teams across the nation. They’ve defeated teams from Ohio, Indiana and New York.
Long said that 80% of members had never previously been involved in extra-curricular activities shows the club’s potential to engage a new group of students in their school community. The group is as dedicated as traditional sports teams, committed to daily practice sessions and two competitions each week, Long said.
Along the way, they build skills in collaboration, strategy, teamwork and communication.
“I love video games, so this is exciting,” said sophomore Kellen Hirte, a Valorant enthusiast. “I don’t really do normal sports, so this is a way to be social, stay competitive, and have the chance to earn scholarships.”
“E-sports have been big at the college level, and now high schools are getting involved,” Long said. “This is a fun way to engage students while they build connections, practice strategy, learn collaboration and boost communication skills.”
This year the team is participating in both the fall and spring competition seasons so athletes involved in other sports can join the team in their off season. They hope to compete in nationals.