When Susan and Rob Salisbury started teaching Career Technical Education in the Kamiah School District, their intent was initially to provide advanced opportunities for their four children.
“The smaller school districts just couldn’t afford those types of teachers,” said Rob. “The administrators came to us and asked what it would take for us to start teaching at the school. At first, we were doing part-time IT work and teaching just a handful of classes to provide an opportunity for those kids. But soon, we both discovered we thoroughly enjoyed working with students and watching them learn.”
The part-time teaching jobs soon became a full-time calling, and when Dr. Bill Knickrehm invited the Salisburys to move from Kamiah to Emmett to start the Payette River Regional Technical Academy (PR2TA) in 2010, they jumped at the chance, with Susan teaching the graphic design classes and Rob teaching pre-engineering.
Early on, the Salisburys were committed to providing hands-on instruction and collaborating with Emmett High School (EHS) and the community to give their students real-world experience. They were also committed to empowering students to be self-directed and accountable for their progress.
“They’re not just learning how to use industry-standard design software; they’re also learning lessons about time management, problem-solving and working as a team,” said Susan. “For example, my graphic design kids are completely responsible for laying out the EHS yearbook. The editor assigns stories and sets deadlines, not me, and the editor does daily round-robins to chart their progress.”
When PR2TA started, five of the classes were housed in mobile units on the EHS campus, and the engineering classes were held two miles off-site. Teachers and students had to get creative to ensure they could make the most of transportation time to and from EHS.
“We adopted the Agile methodology to review what we did the day before, and what we would be working on that day on the bus,” said Rob. “Students could also ask questions and troubleshoot, so when they arrived on-site, they were ready to work. And on the way back, we’d review what we did and discuss what we’d be doing the next day.”
Over a decade of dedication to quality instruction and real-world skills paid off during the 2018-2019 school year,* when both the graphic design and pre-engineering programs earned Distinguished status in IDCTE’s CTE program awards. Both programs had a 100% Technical Skills Assessments (TSA) participation rate, and a 100% pass rate for both the TSA and the Workplace Readiness Assessment.
Interest in what the Salisburys and other teachers at PR2TA were doing continues to grow, and so do their programs. In May 2020, the PR2TA board of directors seized the opportunity to purchase the old USDA building complex on Highway 16 and consolidate all the programs into one campus. Over the summer, all the PR2TA teachers worked together to assist with moving, painting and setting up classroom and lab areas.
“We are so proud of the efforts made by our teaching staff to ensure that face-to-face learning would take place beginning in August,” said Patti O’Maley, CTE coordinator for PR2TA.
Rob echoes O’Maley’s sentiment.
“We [the teachers] knew that every dollar we saved in moving and doing the work ourselves could go back into the programs, so we were only too happy to do so,” said Rob.
In fall 2020, six of the programs were moved to the new campus, and plans are in the works to remodel the kitchen to accommodate the culinary arts program and construct new buildings for auto shop, welding and agricultural science. An aviation-based curriculum is in the works, and a Cessna 150F was recently donated to PR2TA for future course offerings.
While coordinating schedules between activities at EHS and classes at PR2TA is still a challenge, students and teachers are loving the convenience of being located on the same campus—and the indoor plumbing.
“You take for granted things like not having to go outside to use the bathroom,” said Susan. “Or, we used to have to schedule meetings with other teachers, and now we can just pop down the hall.”
*Due to the coronavirus, no assessments were conducted during the 2019-2020 school year.