FAIRVIEW, TN – He took the job in 2003 as a business education teacher. But Kevin Sizemore didn’t know he’d build a mechatronics program that offers students an associate’s degree along with their high school diploma.
Sizemore, the mechatronics instructor at Fairview High School in Fairview, TN, said his goal as an instructor is to make sure his students have as many career opportunities as possible when they leave his program. He said his students’ demographics are a little different than the rest of the county, and he wants them to succeed at every turn.
“Our county is one of the wealthiest counties in state of Tennessee, but our school doesn’t really match up with that,” Sizemore said. “We’re kind of an outlier. We have a lot of students coming through who are first-generation college students. My goal is to give them a good opportunity to get a good-paying job as quick as they can.”
Sizemore said he began at Fairview teaching basic engineering classes alongside his business education courses. About seven years ago, he said their local community college, Columbia State Community College, wanted to work with Williamson County to prepare students either to enter the workforce right after high school or go into post-secondary institutions.
He said after he spoke with his principal and career and technical education director, they agreed to start a couple of classes at a time at Fairview. However, his lab needed an update. Sizemore said it started off as a computer lab, then it was converted into a workshop. But everyone agreed that the lab at Fairview needed to match the one at Columbia State, which meant a full complement of Amatrol training equipment.
Since then, his program has received accolades from statewide organizations. In 2018, the mechatronics program at Fairview High School was named Secondary Program of the Year by the Tennessee Association for Career and Technical Education.
He said students start with basic electrical trainers and work on everything from fluid power to automation systems. But he said a real life-saver, both during and after the pandemic, was Amatrol’s comprehensive eLearning.
Sizemore said Amatrol’s eLearning has made his program stronger because students can learn theory before getting their hands on the equipment, but it also keeps them from falling behind in class if they have a vacation, if they’re sick, or if something else prevents them from making it to school. He also said it’s shifted how he teaches.
“It’s changed the dynamic of our classroom because now, instead of having a teacher up there lecturing, I’m a facilitator,” Sizemore said. “They’re in the lab, they’re doing the stuff, I’m just checking to make sure they’re doing it right and doing it safe. It’s turned it into a student lab because they’re doing the projects and I’m just answering their questions.”
Sizemore said his students have had a lot of great opportunities because of the mechatronics program at his school. He said some of his graduates go into the military, while others go on to find jobs after scoring internships, and others continue their education to complete either two- or four-year degrees.
“The opportunity for the kids is tremendously much more than it was 10 years ago,” Sizemore said. “With the equipment, it’s made us able to teach the curriculum to the kids so that they can understand it and apply it at the same time.”
He said his program is getting a lot of attention from local industry, too. Students have pathways to begin working as interns at local companies, and often get hired on full-time by the time they finish. More big manufacturers are beginning to pay attention to Fairview High School, and he said it just presents more opportunity for his students.
“We have a lot of big manufacturers,” Sizemore said. “Nissan’s NA headquarters is in our county. They take a lot of our kids. Ford is getting ready to build Blue Oval City, which is the place where they’re going to build the batteries for their EV cars. They’ve come and visited and at some point down the road, that’s a place where our kids will be able to go.”
He said he owes part of that to Amatrol equipment and eLearning. From the time students learn the basics on the software, to the time they begin to put those ideas into practice on hands-on trainers, he said it makes a difference in how much his students learn.
“From my experience as a high school teacher, anytime you can put kids in something where they’re doing something, rather than just sitting there and listening, it seems like their leaning abilities are improved,” Sizemore said. “They’re more engaged and there’s ownership over it.”