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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Impact Award: Career Prep Teacher Connects Students with Internships

When teachers are asked the question, “What do you teach?” most will respond in the form of a subject area, such as reading, language arts, or math. Melanie Stillings describes her role in a different way.

“I teach students,” Stillings says with a smile.

As the Career Prep teacher at Ben Barber Career Tech Academy, Stillings works to prepare students for the real world by connecting them with internships in the local business community.

By joining a local business as an intern, students get a one-of-a-kind learning experience, and the opportunity to connect what they are learning in the classroom to real life experiences in the workforce.

The response from the business community has been overwhelmingly supportive, but it took a bit of convincing in the beginning. One of the first businesses Stillings reached out to was Klein Tools. As a worldwide provider of tools, Klein has an honored reputation to uphold. Although the company had never hired interns before, they were willing to give Stillings’ students a shot.

“They met with us and were so impressed with our engineering program and our robotics program that they took the gamble and hired our students,” Stillings said. “They ended up hiring some of them on as employees because they were so impressed with the skillset they had and how prepared they were for the work force.”

Through her involvement with groups like the Mansfield AreaChamber of Commerce and Leadership Mansfield, Stillings has developed a wide range of contacts in the local business community, and has been able to connect students with internships in the field they are interested in.

Throughout the semester, students work closely with their mentors to develop a capstone project, which is evaluated by a panel at the Senior Showcase Night. The panel consists of business and community partners that donate their time to assist the students with their unique projects, which range from detailed business proposals to actual products such as a fully developed iPhone App to a custom-built engine that runs on fuel vapors.

Under Stillings’ guidance, her students have been able to build a strong foundation for the future and accomplish some truly amazing things.

“She has such a love for what she does,” said campus counselor Michelle Smith. “She cares about their future and really wants to see them succeed and be the kind of person that she sees each one of them can be.”

Watch the Impact Award video on YouTube or the MISD Video Portal:

On behalf of the Mansfield ISD Administration, congratulations to Melanie Stillings, our latest Impact Award Winner!


The Impact Award was established to recognize individual staff members, departments, campuses or other groups that have promoted teamwork and unity by initiating a program or event that made a positive impact within Mansfield ISD and the community. Impact Award winners may be nominated by staff, students or community members.

Winners are selected each month throughout the school year. Staff members who receive The Impact Award are eligible for other district honors.