Pioneer launches Nevada’s first CTEHS program |

Pioneer launches Nevada’s first CTEHS program

Don Bland in his classroom at Pioneer High School Wednesday.
Brad Coman/Nevada Appeal |

By the end of the year, most high school students can either solve equations, breakdown the anatomy of a cell, combine three colors into one, or remember the author of “Hamlet.”

This knowledge may help them beat others to the punch in trivia games but how many will use this information in the future, especially when it comes to job searching, or filing for insurance and taxes?

Although all academics are important, these topics in particular grabbed Pioneer High School teacher Donald Bland’s attention.

Hence, he created a three-tier Career and Technical Education, and Health Sciences program — the first of its kind in the state, in school standards.

“It’s about introducing the foundational skills they will need and can use for anything,” Bland said. “It’s not about asking a 17-year-old what they want to be in 10 years.”

The three-year sequence will not only count towards a credit but also will go towards the program a student is planning to study, he said.

That’s because the classes go beyond the idea of filing for insurance. Bland created the program around jobs that are in need of filling in roles, such as medical records and Healthcare Information Technology technicians. According to Nevada Occupational Employment & Wages, Health Sciences pays more than other entry-level jobs.

The first year of the sequence covers medical terminology and foundational health sciences. The second year focuses on health into management, while the third class covers topics such as billing, coding and office management in a variety of fields involving information management.

In all classes, students learn the standards of communication skills, utilizing data management, coding, computer science engineering, and more. The curriculum is constantly relevant and updated, he said.

Bland’s classroom is set up with computers in a row, with an office-like setup to present scenarios. For students, he said it’s about how to approach the software since jobs are looking for people who know how to do it.

“This program isn’t working backwards from med school,” he said. “And it’s important to learn about problem solving in regular core classes such as math. But doctors aren’t going to ask an 18-year-old for advice. They’re going to want to ask them to fix a piece of equipment or find information on a patient. Doctors hate that computing stuff, and they need help. That’s where the jobs are.”

And with that comes a paycheck and benefits, he said. Eventually, students will evolve from those roles and build their own foundation from there.

Carson High School also has a large CTE program, however, it’s not tiered like Bland’s program. So far, three of Bland’s former students were hired at Carson Tahoe Health and Renown shortly after they graduated from PHS. One of his current students will be the first to graduate this year completing all three levels of the program.

After students complete and pass the state test, they receive a dual credit and certification to work in a medical office.

“We want to make it happen before students turn 18 and before they graduate high school,” he said. “Life isn’t about building pre-defined paths anymore. I help them build foundational skills. If I can do it, they can do it.”

Bland has been teaching at PHS for four years and also teaches a variety of classes such as music and biology. He also taught the Gifted and Talented program, and physical science in Lyon County School District.

Some of the challenges faced with the new CTE program is the attendance is expected to fluctuate. Students must pass biology and algebra to be admitted into the program, and it’s not for everyone, he said.

“It’s not burn-down-the-house exciting, but it prepares them for the future,” he said.

One of the benefits about having the program at PHS is teaching smaller classes compared to CHS, or schools in Washoe County, he said. At PHS, most students are at-risk in academics, he said.

“We connect with businesses looking to hire in these roles and provide internships and job-shadowing,” he said. “Unfortunately, Pioneer has a poor reputation but it’s about putting a foot in the door.”

Thanks to the job-shadowing opportunities, students also have a chance to connect with businesses and begin building a network, on top of three PHS alumni who can help get their colleagues hired at hospitals.

Bland’s heart is set with PHS; his program will not expand to CHS or Western Nevada College.

“You have to find somebody with all of those skill sets,” he said. “My program has launched successfully and it’s what PHS needs.”

By the end of the year, most high school students will be able to solve equations, breakdown anatomy and know famous authors on top of preparation for revenue, job forms and knowledge of cash flow, thanks to Bland.

“It’s results I can actually taste,” he said. “I’ve changed their lives. That’s my job. My biggest advocates are my students.”