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Passion Plus Purpose Equals Success

This veteran continues serving her country by shaping its future.
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Lee Ann Rees in class.
Photo provided courtesy of Leanne Rees.

When U.S. Navy veteran Leanne Rees saw an opening to teach electronics and avionics for a brand-new program at Olathe Advanced Technical Center (OATC) in Kansas, she thought, “That’s perfect for me.”

Rees had spent 11 years in the Navy, honing her craft in electricity and avionics as an aircraft electrician working on autopilot and automatic flight control systems. After leaving the military, she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics; taught math at the high school and college levels; worked in corporate America, earned an MBA, became a national board-certified teacher and taught basic electricity/electronics at the college level.

So yes, the job opening at OATC was perfect for Rees, and she began building the new program in 2019. She also took on another new role as her school’s lead SkillsUSA advisor. She’d never heard of SkillsUSA before working at the school. Now, the passion she holds for sparking student interest in her program applies to SkillsUSA membership as well. Why? Because she can now make clear connections with her students between academics and the technical skills they’re learning. “When I taught math, my students wondered when they would use the knowledge,” she says. “Now, I use math principles in teaching electricity, and they can see directly how it applies.”

One of those students, Cameron Fehrenbacher, earned gold at the SkillsUSA Kansas State Leadership & Skills Conference in 2023 and went on to compete at the 2023 SkillsUSA Championships, part of SkillsUSA’s annual National Leadership & Skills Conference (NLSC). “The NLSC is an amazing event for students and teachers,” Rees says. “The competition gives the kids confidence in what they’re doing. The judges are amazing. They give the kids so much insight.”

As Rees looks to expand her program even further, she’s equally excited about the role SkillsUSA will continue to play in her students’ development. “One of my favorite things to do when I was in the military was to train new personnel,” Rees continues. “I get to do that here by helping teenagers find their path to a bright future. Getting this program rolling has been one of the biggest accomplishments in my life.” Watch this recruitment video Rees created to attract students to the OATC electronics:

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