A Good Read on How to Improve Lives

This award-winning SkillsUSA advisor motivates students, serves the community and brings positive recognition to his inner-city school
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The best teachers show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see. Instructor Jason McCuish hopes you’ll look at his amazing pupils and see for yourself how impressive they are.

While McCuish likes to keep the focus on students at Lynn (Mass.) Vocational Technical Institute (LVTI), he earned his own time in the spotlight when named 2019’s SkillsUSA Advisor of the Year.

The 15-year teaching veteran became a SkillsUSA advisor five years ago, starting with 12 students in a barely noticed program. He increased involvement as he transformed the culture of his classroom, enhanced the reputation of the school and affected the lives of many individual students in the process.

McCuish’s efforts to motivate students resulted in three national gold medals at the SkillsUSA Championships: a 2019 gold medal in Community Action Project plus 2017 and 2019 gold medals in Community Service. His school has also been recognized three times in SkillsUSA’s Chapter Excellence Program as a Model of Excellence (MOE) winner: in 2019 for the technical skills component; in 2017 for personal skills; and as a Top 24 school in 2015, the first year of the program.

McCuish cites with pride his chapter’s winning project this year in the area of technical skills grounded in academics.

The chapter published a children’s book called Tech Goes to Tiger Town. The book was shared with kindergarten students to encourage them to think about technical careers like culinary arts, electrical trades, engineering and nurse assisting.

“Every year, we try to identify something that is lacking within our city,” McCuish says. In the past, his chapter has focused on hunger, substance abuse prevention to address a heroin epidemic, and homelessness among local veterans.

A 20,000-book giveaway takes off

This year, McCuish and his students targeted literacy and raised funds to give away 20,000 books to the community. When they couldn’t find a book about career and technical education, they wrote one. The students drafted, illustrated, published and distributed the book, based on their school’s training programs.

Live readings were part of the fun as the students visited classrooms and brought the book’s characters to life. The students practiced their SkillsUSA Framework skills as they mastered the technical skills needed to publish a book.

McCuish says the book is dedicated to “SkillsUSA students, past and present, who have also learned that the chase for the gold is also a chase for your dreams.”

In the past five years, he and his students raised over $40,000 for local organizations including My Brother’s Table and the

Lynn Shelter Association. To remember 9/11 and thank first responders, students delivered gift bags to every fire department, police station, ambulance base and emergency room nurse in the city. Other service projects were organized and carried out to support other community needs while practicing skills.

Through each project, students also bring more positive awareness to SkillsUSA and to their school.

Born and raised in Lynn, McCuish always enjoyed school and knew he wanted to teach someday. After college in Boston, he returned to Lynn as an English instructor in the public schools. His teaching career is now a passion that can’t and won’t stop. He enjoys fostering a love of learning and a drive to succeed in his students, no matter their career paths.

“I can say that choosing Lynn Techwas the best decision of my young life,” says David Barrios, his former chapter president. Another student, Kevin Gomes, adds, “He ensures that everyone feels heard and included. He created a culture of excellence at our school and pushed me until I saw it within myself.”

McCuish explains that his chapter is focused around leadership and service, but it also strives to enhance the training. “We started doing community outreach, and that’s really what led us to start working with industry, which is now helping improve our technical programs.”

He’s found the influence of a good teacher can inspire hope that goes well beyond high school. A surrogate dad to students who don’t have family support, McCuish says these are the ones who tell him they want to pay it forward and become teachers themselves.

“SkillsUSA has changed how I approach teaching, how we serve the community, and it has given me a platform for awareness. My students work hard because they know they can push me — and they know I’m willing to push for them.”

Web Resources

To read more about LVTI’s award-winning literacy program, go to: sharemylesson.com/blog/gift-reading-their-city

Want to learn more about SkillsUSA’s Chapter Excellence Program? Go to: www. skillsusa.org/programs/chapter-excellence- program/

To findnewserviceideasthatstudents will love, check out Champions Serving Others: An Easy Guide to Community Service Projects from: www.skillsusa.org/ store/CSO.html

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