Goneke builds work ethic in MHS students

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 16, 2006

Learning leadership skills, good work ethics and common-sense approaches to everyday life: there may not be a specific class dedicated to such practical wisdom, but it's happening through the career tech program at McKenzie High School.

Agri-science instructor Donnie Goneke has seen quite a few changes come along in the nearly 29 years he has been teaching.

&#8220Back when I was a teacher in Conecuh County, we had a very active livestock program, crop development – it truly focused on farming operations,” Goneke, who has taught for almost 19 years at the south Butler County school, said.

&#8220Nowadays, most of the kids are interested in different areas.”

Those areas include instruction in welding, forestry, building construction, small engine repair, agricultural electricity and various levels of agri-science.

&#8220We try to alternate the classes we offer each year depending on the major interests shown by the students,” Goneke explained.

Along with welding, forestry has proven a particularly popular subject with MHS teens.

&#8220Our Future Farmers of America (FFA) Forestry judging teams have always won or placed second in our district for several years,” Goneke, FFA advisor, said with pride.

In fact, Goneke's classroom in the agricultural building has a row of winning banners circling its walls – evidence of the success of the MHS program.

&#8220I can't say enough about our student organization. Our FFA is very active. We are expecting great things from our president, Kathryn (Sanford) this year when she runs for state office,” Goneke said.

&#8220We teach kids to think on their own and develop life skills they are going to need when they get out into the world,” the instructor explained.

Sanford agrees. &#8220People think FFA is only about farming – but you learn so much more. It teaches you a lot about life and how to handle yourself…and it really helps your leadership skills develop.”

MHS's career tech program starts young in teaching its students responsible behaviors.

Currently, Goneke's eighth grade students are doing a project involving record keeping.

&#8220The students have to write checks and keep a check register…if they don't keep track, of course, they can get overdrawn – just like in real life. It's something everybody needs to know.”

Students in the electricity class learn how to install single toggle, three-way and four-way switches – &#8220a basic skill you can use to do repairs at home.”

Most of the students, Goneke said, &#8220will go on to select a trade – and make a living out of it. This is where I see the real benefit of career tech for our county's students.”

The agri-science instructor said the career tech department's main objective is &#8220to help these students develop the work ethic they will need in the real world.”

&#8220We may not be able to give them the specific training they need for a trade here in high school – but we help them develop the proper attitude and outlook on work,” Goneke said.

The instructor has found hands-on activities for his students teach lasting lessons long after the project is done.

&#8220We've been able to take care of projects here around the campus for Mr. Williams that have been great learning experiences for our students.”

Goneke has also discovered his classes fit right in with the overall thrust of the student's education.

&#8220Other teachers also tell me many of our lessons blend well with the rest of the curriculum. It's good to know we are all working together.”