Aberdeen Central students DJ Johnson and Danica Klein

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Twice a week, Aberdeen Central students DJ Johnson and Danica Klein help out in Simmons Elementary classrooms. 

This hands-on learning is part of the Child Development: Preschool course they’re taking at Central’s ATEC Academy. 

“I want to be a child therapist, so it helps me understand the children a little bit better,” Klein said of the class. 

For Johnson, the class is not necessarily beneficial for a future career, but for an overall life skill. 

“It’s just helpful to have this experience to understand children more,” Johnson said. 

That’s the goal of Family and Consumer Science, or FACs, courses, according to FACS Teacher Elizabeth Ketterling. The classes not only prepare students for careers—they also teach them skills they need for life. 

“We're not just focusing on the content and getting them that career,” Ketterling said. “We're giving them the life skills, the soft skills, that are needed to get those careers.” 

ATEC’s FACS program also works with community partners, including the Montessori School of Aberdeen.

“We have had such a positive experience as we have partnered with the CHS programs,” said Montessori School Director Susan Dalager. “We have found the students to be excited about exploring the field of early childhood education. Many of the students have been hired as staff members for both our after-school and summer program.” 

Ketterling said all of the Career and Technical Education courses taught at ATEC prepare students for life. 

“That’s why I think our classes are really important,” she said. 

ATEC classes focus on teaching soft skills, such as communication and customer service, as part of their content standards. 

“Every one of our standards have soft skills written into them,” she said. “And I think that's what makes some of our classes unique.” 

This year, along with teaching the Preschool course, Ketterling is also teaching Child Development: Prenatal to Toddler; Introduction to Education; and Resources and Services for Life, which she said could also be called “adulting.” In this class, she creates a simulation for students that involves them moving out of their parents’ house and into a new town, where they must find an apartment and a job, get weekly paychecks, and manage their money. 

“It's just them learning how to live on their own—picking out a car, picking out a cell phone plan,” she said. “So that class is kind of like them becoming an adult.” 

Today’s FACS classes are based on what society expects of students, she said, and helping them gain those skills. 

Now in her 11th year of teaching, Ketterling has seen the impact of her classes in the messages she’s received from past students who have become parents. 

“They're like, ‘because of your class, I feel like I can do this. I can be a mom. I know what to look for. I know what to do,’” she said. “So that’s really rewarding, that students can even say, ‘I can do this because of your class.’” 

About the Aberdeen Public School District 

The Aberdeen Public School District provides a comprehensive educational program to approximately 4,200 students in grades K-12, with a mission of empowering all students to succeed in a changing world. Our students receive the knowledge and skills necessary to reach their potential in a global community through high expectations of academic achievement; diverse educational opportunities; and community involvement in a safe, supportive environment. Learn more at aberdeen.k12.sd.us.