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Teacher Externship Guide

This guide was developed under contract with the California Department of Education.


Many people contributed to this guide. They are: Erin Fender, Project Manager, College and Career Academy Support Network; Sandy Mittelsteadt, Educational Consultant; Sventlana Darche & June H. Lee-Bayha, Senior Research Associates, WestEd; Devi Jameson, Director of School-to-College and Career Programs, West Contra Costa School District; and Marna Lombardi, Grant Coordinator, Central Coast Career Technical Education Community Collaborative.

Some of the contents of this guide were originally developed by other entities. They are: Hatcheul Tabernik and Associates for the Alameda Unified School District based on materials prepared by the West Contra Costa School District; Jobs for the Future; the U.S. Department of Education’s New American High Schools Initiative; the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary’s Commission On Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS); and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.


College and Career Academy Support Network
University of California, Berkeley
Graduate School of Education
Berkeley, CA 94720-1670

Table of Contents

* denotes items that are beneficial for both educators and the employer/host site


What is a Teacher Externship?

Teacher Externships offer a unique professional development opportunity connecting the classroom to the workplace. They provide an experience in which teachers spend time in a workplace to learn through direct experience about trends, skill requirements and opportunities in industries related to their subject in order to enrich and strengthen their teaching and bring relevance to student learning. There are many types of workplace experiences such as student internships, teacher externships, job shadowing, informational interviewing, and service learning, but teacher externships "provide a peer-to-peer learning environment," says WestEd Senior Research Associate Svetlana Darche. Externships range from a day of job shadowing to longer externships that are usually project-based and can last as long as a full summer. Teacher externships offer a professional development experience that is often transformative for educators and their students.

In Career Academies teacher externships take on increased meaning as Career Technical Education (CTE) teachers and core academic teachers build the bridge between skills-based and knowledge-based education. With the goal that all students be prepared for college and careers teachers must constantly update their own knowledge and skills about current workplace practices, requirements, and tools by gaining an "on the ground" understanding of economic and career trends that will affect their students. The externship experience helps teachers connect classroom content with students' future career interests and helps students develop both the academic and technical skills required in the world they are preparing to enter.


The purpose of a teacher externship is to engage in activities in business and industry, and/or service-based organizations, to learn how classroom content and learning strategies are applied in the workplace. Teachers improve their pedagogical practices by incorporating new methods, labor market information, and employment skills that meet current industry standards. The educational goal of an externship is to increase a teacher's ability to connect theory and practice and bring an understanding of workplace practices and policies (e.g. problem solving methods, practical applications of theory, leadership concepts) into the classroom, thus increasing the relevance of student learning.

June Lee-Bayha, Senior Research Associate at WestEd, describes externships as a career-altering experience: "It energizes faculty. It changes the classroom dynamic when faculty become more like students and see what kind of world their students are entering. It raises the stakes of what's being taught and can make teachers more empathetic to their students." According to WestEd's Svetlana Darche, the core ideas behind externships are rooted in a constructivist approach to education and in tenets of adult learning theory: Adults learn through doing and problem-solving; they need to understand why they are learning something, and they learn best when the subject is of immediate use to them.

For anyone familiar with the theory and practice of Career Academies this falls in line with a common goal, providing a curriculum that combines interest in a career theme, such as arts & media or health, with the requirements needed for college entrance, often through project-based learning.


With first-hand exposure, teachers can design and implement classroom activities, projects and work-based learning opportunities that will add relevance and meaning to students' classroom learning. Externships provide a fresh perspective that lets teachers tie curriculum to real-world applications. They gain an increased ability to explain the value of what students are learning. This often leads to activities in which students work in groups, engaging in cooperative learning and open-ended real-life, problem-based assignments.

The externship experience offers an avenue for teachers to expand their industry-based knowledge and transfer this to the curriculum. For example, Oceanography instructor Laura Faye Tenenbaum used her externship to develop a UC approved college-preparatory elective ("g") on climate change. While completing an externship at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena she worked alongside preeminent climatologists studying recent changes in sea level and sea ice distribution. As a result, "We're rewriting the lab manual we use and updating information," Tenenbaum says. "What we used previously was from textbooks; this is from scientists themselves. The students are inspired and have become more involved in things like research." The externship also led Tenenbaum to write an article on JPL's ocean surface topography missions for NASA's newsletter, to host tours of the lab for her students, and to arrange JPL internships for some of them.

Externships can be particularly powerful for teachers working on an interdisciplinary team, as in a Career Academy. Along with Tenenbaum, a science teacher, one of her colleagues, photography instructor Joan Watanabe, also completed an externship at JPL. Watanabe worked alongside JPL's Image Processing Lab technicians creating a presentation of the journeys of the two Mars Rovers, which were on the search for water. Building on her externship, Wantanabe developed a project useful in digital planetariums: art students instructed science students on imaging techniques and the aesthetics appropriate for planetarium shows. Thus together Tenebaum and Watanabe worked in a state-of-the-art facility at JPL and gained skills and knowledge they were able to translate to their classrooms as interdisciplinary projects for students.

Externships also give employers other avenues of involvement in academies. They can inform educators about their expectations of employees in various positions and offer input to the curriculum, thereby contributing to the preparation of their future workforce. They can also become guest speakers, mentors, host field trips and job shadows, or offer internships for students. In addition they provide an avenue for educators to "market" their academy, spreading the word to students about their opportunities in the academy.

The benefits for teachers are many but, so too are the benefits for the hosting employer. Many companies do not have the means to give to their community through financial or equipment donations but are rich in what they can provide in training and experience. In-kind donations of time and expertise are immensely valuable and provide employers an opportunity to show their commitment to their community. Some states even provide tax incentives to businesses that provide such services. For example, California State Senate Bill 974 (Steinberg & Hancock), being considered as this guide goes to press, would establish a new Career Pathways Investment Credit (CPIC) administered by the California Department of Education (CDE) to business entities that partner with local education agencies (LEAs) to develop and support career pathways. These include instructional programs provided by high schools, alternative schools, county offices of education, or other public schools that integrate academic and technical learning to prepare pupils for both postsecondary instruction and careers in high-growth or high-need sectors of the economy.

Even without such incentives many companies, large and small, have established programs that allow employees to donate work time to philanthropic endeavors to promote community involvement and/or service learning. Peer-to-peer experiences where educators and adults working in industry share their experiences provide valuable insights into the demands and challenges of education and the modern workplace and make learning more meaningful for students.

Make These Documents Your Own

It is our hope that this guide will serve as a reference tool and provide examples for you to engage in a rewarding teacher externship experience. It is available to download for free as both a pfd and a doc. at the College and Career Academy Support Network (CCASN) website, in the "Resources" section. Please use the information and forms that follow to fit your needs.

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Planning Document

This planning document is intended to help you begin to plan for a successful externship experience. No two teachers, schools or communities are alike and planning will lead to a richer and more useful experience. Please take the time to jot down your ideas related to the prompts below.

Externship Objectives & Expected Outcomes

What do you hope to get out of the externship experience and how will this translate to your work as a classroom teacher? Include curriculum or products you hope to develop through this experience. How will the externship experience lead to improved student learning?

How many hours or days will you spend in the workplace?

Suggestion - spend at least two full days or the equivalent of 16 hours in the workplace. The more time you spend the more you will learn and the more contacts you will make for future possibilities such as guest speakers, field trips and student job-shadows/internships.

When will I do an externship?

This is usually during school breaks, especially over the summer, or perhaps on a fall or spring break. Or you might take time from of the school year and utilize a substitute?

How Will I Be Compensated For My Time?

If you do an externship as a release day from work with a substitute, think about who will pay for a substitute, or for your time if it is during non-school days: the school, the externship provider, a grant?

Planned Activities

What will you do during your externship? For example - information interviews with various departments such as Human Resources or Research & Development; work alongside someone sharing their day-to-day responsibilities; observe a team working together; learn a particular skill?

Contacting a Workplace

Brainstorm businesses, industry, and not-for-profit organizations that would integrate with your classroom. Use your Advisory Committee/Board, the Internet, your local Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, and colleagues to research appropriate places.

Contact the Human Resources or Public Relations Department if you do not already have a contact person. Use the "Background Statement/Application" and/or the "Sample Telephone Contact Sheet" in this guide.

Material Needs and Resources

What do you need to get ahead of time, such as safety equipment? Is there anything you should read or prepare before the experience?

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Background Statement/Application

You may want to send a letter of introduction and/or background information either before or after you make contact with a prospective externship host. In any case having your information written down on a sheet of paper will help you think about what skills and experiences you bring to the experience and what you want to gain from the externship.

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Locating an Externship Host

Sample Letter

Your Name
Your School
Phone number

Possible Externship Host (Employer) Information

Dear ___________________:

Please let me take this opportunity to introduce the idea of your company hosting a teacher externship. As you are probably aware, employer surveys (conducted both locally and nationally) conclude that the majority of entry-level workers lack the basic skills and knowledge needed to be immediately productive in the workplace. In response to these trends, the (name of your Career Academy) _____________________________________________ is working to increase student achievement and motivation through new teaching and learning strategies. This includes employers, teachers, counselors, parents and the community working more closely together. Through the use of innovative curriculum, hands-on real-world projects, and workplace experiences this (name of your Career Academy) __________________________________ seeks to integrate the foundation skills of reading, writing and math with workplace skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork and use of technology in order to prepare all students for college and careers.

The teacher externship is designed to expose teachers to careers and work environments so they can work with high school students more effectively. It is an opportunity for teachers to observe first-hand what the 21st century workplace entails and to interact with business professionals. It allows teachers to provide links between the skills and knowledge taught in the classroom and those being used in the workplace so that we can better prepare young people for the workplace ready for the challenges there.

Here's how you can help. We are planning teacher externships in (when) _________________________________________________. They can last anywhere from two days, or the equivalent of sixteen hours, to as much as a 6-8 week summer. We will contact you with the next two weeks. Meanwhile if you have any questions or need additional information please contact (name) ________________________________ at (how to contact - email/phone) _____________________________.


Your name


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Sample Telephone Contact Sheet


Hello, My name is ___________________________ and I teach at _______________. I would like to incorporate some real-world experiences into my class. I teach (name the class, a unit, a project) ____________________________ and hope to learn more about __________________________________________________. I understand from (how do you know this - colleague, internet, Chamber of Commerce) that _____________________________________________ (your company) is doing great work in this area. I'm particularly interested in observing (who or what do you want to see/do?) ______________________________________________. I would also like to find out about the range, required levels of education, salary ranges, typical workdays, and pros and cons of the jobs there. Would your organization be open to hosting me for an externship for (state amount of time, i.e., hours/days?) ________________________ (when?) __________.

Company Name________________________________________________________­­­­­­­­

Primary Product/Service _________________________________________________

Secondary Product/Service _______________________________________________

Contact Name__________________________________________________________


Main Telephone________________ Cell number______________ Fax____________


Externship Date(s)__________________________ Time_______________________

Check-In Location_______________________________________________________

Directions to Company___________________________________________________

Parking/Entrance/Security Information_______________________________________

Dress Requirements_____________________________________________________

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Agreements for a Successful Externship

It is useful to have some type of agreement between the externship teacher and those organizing or hosting the externship, such as the district, a Regional Occupation Program, or a Chamber of Commerce, re. what each of the parties is expected to do to ensure a successful experience.

Some teachers set up their own externship; some complete an externship as part of professional development provided by the school or district; and some teachers experience an externship as part of a specialized program such as through a community college cooperative. Nonetheless, the following information is meant to serve as a helpful example and starting point to develop a clear understanding of expectations and/or roles and responsibilities for each party involved.


  • Attend orientation meeting(s) with the organizing entity and/or externship host
  • Contact business/industry/community partners to set up externship
  • Spend a total of two-days or the equivalent of 16 hours in the workplace at a minimum
  • Complete informational interviews with the key people during the externship
  • Pay special attention to the types of competencies listed in the attached "SCANS" Skills document
  • Maintain a reflective journal/notes during the externship
  • Develop at least one lesson plan based on the externship using the standards for your subject matter (CTE or State Content Standards)
  • Develop a summary, power point presentation or other professional development tool based on your experience that can be shared with colleagues
  • Work with colleagues in a peer review process to strengthen lesson plans based on your experience
  • Complete an evaluation of the externship experience
  • Write a thank you note to the externship host
  • Follow rules and regulations of your employer (the school district) and host
  • Be punctual and properly dressed
  • Notify the organizing entity of any problems that arise out of the externship

Organizing Entity (i.e., District, ROP, Community College, Chamber of Commerce)

  • Conduct an orientation meeting
  • Provide a point of contact for the teacher
  • Contact business/industry/community partners to set up the externship
  • Attend to any problems that affect or arise out of the externship
  • Provide an evaluation tool for feedback from participants (teachers and host)

One question that usually arises in teacher externships is the role of the host site re. agreements and liability issues among the teacher, organizing entity, and the externship host. Be sure to check in with your school supervisor and/or district office to determine needs for insurance, other liability, or workers compensation. The following form is one example of an agreement with the externship host, but isn't necessarily the best one in every case.

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Agreement for Teacher Externship Host Site Participation

1. Host site agrees to develop a teacher externship that will:

  • Provide a point of contact for the teacher
  • Impart knowledge of career opportunities, organizational issues, hiring trends and skills required for work in the industry by providing teachers the opportunity to conduct informational interviews, shadow employees, make observations and collect appropriate materials
  • Give the teacher the opportunity to make observations and perform tasks that will enhance understanding and skills in specific areas related to their teaching
  • Provide an opportunity to observe and experience the types of competencies listed in the "SCANS" Skills document
  • Report to the district and/or principal any problems or concerns that may arise during the course of the externship by calling ______________________________________
  • Maintain an adequate and safe training station and tools, which meet state and federal health and safety rules and regulations
  • Inform teacher externs of all applicable rules, regulations and safety precautions established by federal or state law, regulation, or by the employer-host
  • Complete an evaluation of the externship program

2. Insurance

The District shall carry and maintain for the duration of this agreement self-insurance of the following types and amounts:

  1. Comprehensive General Liability
  2. Workers' Compensation Insurance

The Externship Host shall carry and maintain for the duration of this agreement insurance policies with insurance companies reasonably satisfactory to District of the following types and amounts:

Comprehensive General Liability Insurance coverage with minimum combined single limits of one million dollars ($1,000,000.00) per occurrence.

Each party shall name the other as an additional insured on its own insurance policy or coverage.

Each party shall provide a certificate of insurance to the other party evidencing the above coverage.

3. Indemnification/Hold Harmless

District shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless Affiliate, its employees, director, officers, agents, independent contractors, parent, or subsidiary companies (collectively "the Affiliate" for the purpose of this paragraph) from all losses, damages, liabilities, claims actions, or judgments arising out of injury, death, property damages or other cause, based or asserted upon any act, omission, or negligence of District, its officers, employees, agents or independent contractors (collectively "the District" for the purpose of this paragraph) related to the performance of any activity contemplated by this Agreement except for the sole negligence or willful misconduct of Affiliate. In meeting this obligation, District shall have the right to designate legal counsel to defend the Affiliate.

Affiliate shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless District, its officers, employees, board members, agents or independent contractors from all losses, damages, liabilities, claims, actions, or judgments arising out of injury, death, property damage or other cause, based or asserted upon any act, omission, or negligence of Affiliate related to the performance of any activity contemplated by this Agreement except for the sole negligence or willful misconduct of District. In meeting this obligation, Affiliate shall have the right to designate legal counsel to defend District.

This provision shall survive termination of this Agreement.

4. Termination

This Agreement may be terminated by the mutual written consent of the parties or by

service of ______ days written notice.

5. Notices

Notices shall be sent to the following addresses:

6. Entire Agreement

No change, modification, or addition to this Agreement shall be effective unless in writing and signed by both parties. This Agreement constitutes the entire understanding between the parties and supersedes any prior negotiations, understandings, and agreements, written or oral with respect to any activity contemplated herein.

IN WITNESS THEREOF, the parties hereto executed this Agreement on ________________, 20___.

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Permission to Photograph the Worksite and Employees

Taking photos of the worksite and employees during a teacher externship often provides a valuable resource for teachers and students once teachers return to the school site. Please grant permission to use these photographs in teacher created curriculum, on the school website, in school newsletters, in brochures, in power point presentations, and so on. The photographs will never be sold and will be used exclusively for educational purposes.

_____YES. I grant you permission to use photos taken during the teacher externship.


_____ NO. Please do NOT take or use any photos.

Host Site Signature of Permission: __________________________________________

Name: _______________________________________________________________

Job Title:______________________________________________________________

Place of Employment:____________________________________________________

Contact Information:


Email: _________________________________________

Date: ______________________

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Suggested Activities for a Teacher Externship

  1. Visit a variety of departments and functions within the company, to obtain a full view of the opportunities available.
  2. Take a brief tour of the facilities and departments:
    • offices
    • meeting rooms
    • copy rooms
    • kitchen/cafeteria
    • common areas, "water cooler", bulletin boards/announcements
    • training facilities
    • other:_____________________________________
  3. Receive an orientation to the "human resources" department/functions:
    • application materials
    • job listings
    • working conditions and benefits (hours, flexibility, vacation/leave opportunities, pension/profit-sharing plans, other incentives)
    • summer hire programs
    • sample resumes
    • salary ranges for various positions
    • performance review processes and tools
  4. Conduct informational interviews; obtain information on the following:
    • the variety of occupations and positions in your industry, company and department
    • educational and skill requirements for your position and others in your department
    • the career path you took to your position
    • "a day in the life..."
    • common and more unusual problems and challenges
    • quality and performance standards and measurement
    • "what I like most and least about working in this industry"
    • current and future skill needs
    • short- and long-term industry trends
  5. Obtain materials that help shed light on the company and industry:
    • organization chart
    • annual report
    • brochures
    • sample products: reports, presentation materials, film clips, photographs
  6. Observe:
    • meetings
    • informal "coffee talk"
    • presentations
    • interviews
    • screenings
    • lunch time/breaks
  7. If appropriate, plan a project and ask for:
    • instructions and opportunities for questions and dialogue
    • tools
    • timeline
  8. Work in a given position for some period of time, under the supervision of someone who can provide orientation and training in that job.

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Employer-Teacher Extern Work Plan

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Reminders/Checklist for a Successful Teacher Externship

  • Call the host site the day before to confirm the date(s), time(s), arrival location and parking location for your externship. Ask about lunch - should your bring one, will they provide one, will you go out to lunch with others?
  • Wear appropriate attire for the host site
  • Arrive at the agreed upon time
  • Read/review the company handbook
  • Follow all company guidelines and rules of confidentiality
  • Act professionally at all times
  • Stay actively engaged at all times
  • Bring a copy of the work plan to the host site
  • Give employees time to answer your questions; let them do most of the talking
  • Be enthusiastic about what you see and can do
  • Bring a copy of SCANS Skills document, 21st Century skills document and any other forms that might be useful throughout the day
  • Complete detailed notes that you will use to help develop your lesson plans
  • Be on the alert to connect and partner with key individuals who can serve as resources to the academy and/or education community
  • Go beyond the needs of your own classroom and keep in mind others who could use the connections and resources
  • Thank people you visit with for the hosting your externship
  • Leave at the agreed upon time
  • Send a thank you note

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Teacher Externship Time Log

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Questions To Ask at Worksite/Information Interviews

Supervisor Questions

  1. Please give me a brief description of your company
  2. Who are your clients or customers?
  3. Do you have an organizational chart showing how your company is structured?
  4. During the past several years, what major industry changes/issues have impacted your company?
  5. What changes/issues does your company anticipate having an impact on the company's future development?
  6. Describe your company's culture?
  7. How many people are employed by the company?
  8. How has technology affected the company?
  9. What should I be teaching in my classroom to prepare students for employment in a company like this?
  10. What would you recommend teachers do to strengthen the relevance of school to the workplace?

Use the next set of labor market questions, if applicable.

Labor Market Questions:

Specify occupational area:_________________________________________

  1. Do you see the local labor markets' need for new workers in your field increasing, decreasing or remaining steady?
  2. Do you have labor market data you use with employers or potential investors?
  3. In what specific areas, if any, is there new job growth?
  4. How might this labor market change in the next five years?
  5. What new skills are required of entry-level employees?
  6. What skills are recommended for workers in the field who wish to advance?
  7. What, if any, industry certifications do you consider desirable for a prospective employee?
  8. What new technologies are emerging in this field?
  9. Is there any additional information you would like educators to know?

Human Resource Questions

  1. What job classifications does your company have?
    Unskilled Professional
    Semi-Skilled Technical
    Skilled Managerial
    Other: ____________________________________________________________
  2. What job classifications do you expect to have the greatest demand within the next five years?
  3. What level of education, training, skills, or experiences does an applicant need for an entry-level position?
  4. What are some of the core abilities and skills you look for in a new hire for entry-level positions?
  5. What should I be teaching in my classroom to prepare student for employment in a company like this?
  6. What ideas or materials to you currently have that a teacher could use in the classroom?
  7. What is the entry-level wage?
  8. How do you locate future employees?
  9. What training do you give employees?
  10. How do you evaluate employees?
  11. What is your company policy on attendance/tardiness?
  12. What advice would you give a student who is interested in working for your company?
  13. How is your company involved in education?
  14. How is your company involved in the community?
  15. What would you recommend teachers do to strengthen the relevance of school to the workplace?

Employee Questions

  1. Please describe your typical workday OR What are your main responsibilities?
  2. How long have you been with the company?
  3. What level of education or training is needed for your position?
  4. What academic and technical skills are required for your position?
  5. What should I be teaching in my classroom to prepare students for employment in a company like this?
  6. What ideas or materials do you have that a teacher could use in the classroom?
  7. How has technology affected your position?
  8. What are your work hours?
  9. What are the positive aspects of your job?
  10. What are the negative aspects of your job?
  11. What advice would you give a student who is interested in working in your job?
  12. What would you recommend teachers do to strengthen the relevance of school to the workplace?
  13. Would you be willing to participate on an academy advisory board?
  14. Would you be willing to speak to my class?
  15. Would you be willing to allow a student to job shadow?
  16. Would you be willing to mentor a student?

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Workplace Learning Opportunities1

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Skills Observation Form with Classroom Application Notes

Please note the skills and personal qualities you observe during your externship that are necessary for solid job performance. Record the ways you see these skills being used and then consider how you could incorporate teaching these skills in your classroom.

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Learning Audit of a Worksite2

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Externship Journal

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Evaluation of Teacher Externship Program by Host Site/Employer

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Evaluation of Externship Program for Teachers

Thank you for participating in the externship. In an effort to improve the experience for both educators and the host site/employer, please take the time to complete this form.

Name: _________________________________________________________

School: _____________________________________________________________

Host Site/Employer: ___________________________________________________

Employee(s) Shadowed: ________________________________________________

Date(s) Shadowed:__________________________ # of Hours: ________________

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Sample Thank-You Letter

Printed on school letterhead

Your Name
City, State, Zip Code

Name of Contact Person
Name of Host Site/Employer
City, State, Zip Code


Dear Mr./Ms. ________________:

Thank you for your time and willingness to host me as a teacher extern. I observed a variety of skills and competencies that I plan to implement in my ____________ class. As a result of my experience with (name of site) ____________________ I will be more successful at helping students understand the connection between the classroom and workplace skills necessary for success. Through my externship experience I learned _________________________ and will use this new knowledge help students to be more prepared to transition to college and careers.


Your Name


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Outline for a Lesson Plan(s) Developed

as a Result of the Externship

As you develop your lesson plan(s) be sure to review your curriculum (for either or both the Career Technical and/or Academic Content) standards to find the area(s) that best integrate with the activities you observed or engaged in during your externship.


Standard(s): ______________________ (number i.e. C11.0)




CAREER TECHNICAL SKILLS & KNOWLEDGE: (try to rely on the CTE standards here even if you are an academic teacher)


ACADEMIC KNOWLEDGE & SKILLS: (try to rely on the Subject Matter Content Standards here even if you are a CTE teacher)



















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The "SCANS" Skills3

A Three-Part Foundation

Basic Skills: reads, writes, performs arithmetic and mathematical operations, listens, and speaks

  1. Reading: locates, understands, and interprets written information in prose and in documents such as manuals, graphs and schedules
  2. Writing: communicates thoughts, ideas, information and messages in writing and creates documents such as letters, directions, manuals, reports, graphs and flow charts
  3. Arithmetic/Mathematics: performs basic computations and approaches practical problems by choosing appropriately from a variety of mathematical techniques
  4. Listening: receives, attends to, interprets and responds to verbal messages and other cues
  5. Speaking: organizes ideas and communicates orally

Thinking Skills: thinks creatively, makes decisions, solves problems, visualizes, knows how to learn and reasons

  1. Creative Thinking: generates new ideas
  2. Decision Making: specifies goals and constraints, generates alternatives, considers risks and evaluates and chooses best alternative
  3. Seeing Things in the Mind's Eye: organizes and processes symbols, pictures, graphs, objects and other information
  4. Problem Solving: recognizes problems and devises and implements plan of action
  5. Knowing How to Learn: uses efficient learning techniques to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills
  6. Reasoning: discovers a rule or principle underlying the relationship between two or more objects and applies it in solving a problem

Personal Qualities: displays responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, integrity and honesty

  1. Responsibility: exerts a high level of effort and perseveres towards goal attainment
  2. Self-Esteem: believes in own self-worth and maintains a positive view of self
  3. Sociability: demonstrates understanding, friendliness, adaptability, empathy and politeness in group settings
  4. Self-Management: assesses self accurately, sets personal goals, monitors progress and exhibits self-control
  5. Integrity/Honesty: chooses ethical courses of action

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Five Competencies

Resources: identifies, organizes, plans, and allocates resources

  1. Time: selects goal-relevant activities, ranks them, allocates time, and prepares and follows schedules
  2. Money: uses or prepares budgets, makes forecasts, keeps records, and makes adjustments to meet objectives
  3. Material and Facilities: acquires, stores, allocates, and uses materials or space efficiently
  4. Humans Resources: assesses skills and distributes work accordingly, evaluates performance and provides feedback

Interpersonal: works with others

  1. Participates as Member of a Team: contributes to group effort
  2. Teaches Others New Skills
  3. Serves Clients/Customers: works to satisfy customers' expectations
  4. Exercises Leadership: communicates ideas to justify position, persuades and convinces others, responsibly challenges existing procedures and policies
  5. Negotiates: works toward agreements involving exchanges of resources, resolves divergent interests
  6. Works with Diversity: works well with men and women from diverse backgrounds

Information: acquires and uses information

  1. Acquires and Evaluates Information
  2. Organizes and Maintains Information
  3. Interprets and Communicates Information
  4. Uses Computers to Process Information

Systems: understands complex inter-relationships

  1. Understands Systems: knows how social, organizational, and technological systems work and operates effectively with them
  2. Monitors and Corrects Performance: distinguishes trends, predicts impacts on system operations, diagnoses deviations in systems' performance and corrects malfunctions
  3. Improves or Designs Systems: suggests modifications to existing systems and develops new or alternative systems to improve performance

Technology: works with a variety of technologies

  1. Selects Technology: chooses procedures, tools or equipment including computers and related technologies
  2. Applies Technology to Task: understands overall intent and proper procedures for setup and operation of equipment
  3. Maintains and Troubleshoots Equipment: prevents, identifies, or solves problems with equipment, including computers and other technologies

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About the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national organization that advocates for the integration of skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and communication into the teaching of core academic subjects such as English, reading or language arts, world languages, arts, mathematics, economics, science, geography, history, government and civics.

The Partnership and our member organizations provide tools and resources that help facilitate and drive this necessary change. Learn more and get involved at


The elements described in this section as "21st century student outcomes" are the knowledge, skills and expertise students should master to succeed in work and life in the 21st century.


Mastery of core subjects and 21st century themes is essential for all students in the 21st century. Core subjects include:

  • English, reading or language arts
  • World languages
  • Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Economics
  • Science
  • Geography
  • History
  • Government and Civics

In addition to these subjects, we believe schools must move to include not only a focus on mastery of core subjects, but also promote understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes

Global Awareness

  • Using 21st century skills to understand and address global issues
  • Learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue in personal, work and community contexts
  • Understanding other nations and cultures, including the use of non-English languages

Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy

  • Knowing how to make appropriate personal economic choices
  • Understanding the role of the economy in society
  • Using entrepreneurial skills to enhance workplace productivity and career options

Civic Literacy

  • Participating effectively in civic life through knowing how to stay informed and understanding governmental processes
  • Exercising the rights and obligations of citizenship at local, state, national and global levels
  • Understanding the local and global implications of civic decisions

Health Literacy

  • Obtaining, interpreting and understanding basic health information and services and using such information and services in ways that enhance health
  • Understanding preventive physical and mental health measures, including proper diet, nutrition, exercise, risk avoidance and stress reduction
  • Using available information to make appropriate health-related decisions
  • Establishing and monitoring personal and family health goals
  • Understanding national and international public health and safety issues

Environmental Literacy

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the environment and the circumstances and conditions affecting it, particularly as relates to air, climate, land, food, energy, water and ecosystems
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of society's impact on the natural world (e.g., population growth, population development, resource consumption rate, etc.)
  • Investigate and analyze environmental issues, and make accurate conclusions about effective solutions
  • Take individual and collective action towards addressing environmental challenges (e.g., participating in global actions, designing solutions that inspire action on environmental issues)


Learning and innovation skills increasingly are being recognized as those that separate students who are prepared for a more and more complex life and work environments in the 21st century, and those who are not. A focus on creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration is essential to prepare students for the future.


Think Creatively

  • Use a wide range of idea creation techniques (such as brainstorming)
  • Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)
  • Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts

Work Creatively with Others

  • Develop, implement and communicate new ideas to others effectively
  • Be open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives; incorporate group input and feedback into the work
  • Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work and understand the real world limits to adopting new ideas
  • View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes

Implement Innovations

  • Act on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the field in which the innovation will occur


Reason Effectively

  • Use various types of reasoning (inductive, deductive, etc.) as appropriate to the situation

Use Systems Thinking

  • Analyze how parts of a whole interact with each other to produce overall outcomes in complex systems

Make Judgments and Decisions

  • Effectively analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments, claims and beliefs
  • Analyze and evaluate major alternative points of view
  • Synthesize and make connections between information and arguments
  • Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis
  • Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes

Solve Problems

  • Solve different kinds of non-familiar problems in both conventional and innovative ways
  • Identify and ask significant questions that clarify various points of view and lead to better solutions


Communicate Clearly

  • Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts
  • Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes and intentions
  • Use communication for a range of purposes (e.g. to inform, instruct, motivate and persuade)
  • Utilize multiple media and technologies, and know how to judge their effectiveness a priori as well as assess their impact
  • Communicate effectively in diverse environments (including multi-lingual)

Collaborate with Others

  • Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
  • Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal
  • Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member


People in the 21st century live in a technology and media-suffused environment, marked by various characteristics, including: 1) access to an abundance of information, 2) rapid changes in technology tools, and 3) the ability to collaborate and make individual contributions on an unprecedented scale. To be effective in the 21st century, citizens and workers must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical thinking skills related to information, media and technology.


Access and Evaluate Information

  • Access information efficiently (time) and effectively (sources)
  • Evaluate information critically and competently

Use and Manage Information

  • Use information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand
  • Manage the flow of information from a wide variety of sources
  • Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information


Analyze Media

  • Understand both how and why media messages are constructed, and for what purposes
  • Examine how individuals interpret messages differently, how values and points of view are included or excluded, and how media can influence beliefs and behaviors
  • Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of media

Create Media Products

  • Understand and utilize the most appropriate media creation tools, characteristics and conventions
  • Understand and effectively utilize the most appropriate expressions and interpretations in diverse, multi-cultural environments

ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) LITERACY

Apply Technology Effectively

  • Use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information
  • Use digital technologies (computers, PDAs, media players, GPS, etc.), communication/ networking tools and social networks appropriately to access, manage, integrate, evaluate and create information to successfully function in a knowledge economy
  • Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information technologies


Today's life and work environments require far more than thinking skills and content knowledge. The ability to navigate the complex life and work environments in the globally competitive information age requires students to pay rigorous attention to developing adequate life and career skills.


Adapt to Change

  • Adapt to varied roles, jobs responsibilities, schedules and contexts
  • Work effectively in a climate of ambiguity and changing priorities
  • Incorporate feedback effectively
  • Deal positively with praise, setbacks and criticism
  • Understand, negotiate and balance diverse views and beliefs to reach workable solutions, particularly in multi-cultural environments


Manage Goals and Time

  • Set goals with tangible and intangible success criteria
  • Balance tactical (short-term) and strategic (long-term) goals
  • Utilize time and manage workload efficiently

Work Independently

  • Monitor, define, prioritize and complete tasks without direct oversight

Be Self-directed Learners

  • Go beyond basic mastery of skills and/or curriculum to explore and expand
  • one's own learning and opportunities to gain expertise
  • Demonstrate initiative to advance skill levels towards a professional level
  • Demonstrate commitment to learning as a lifelong process
  • Reflect critically on past experiences in order to inform future progress


Interact Effectively with Others

  • Know when it is appropriate to listen and when to speak
  • Conduct themselves in a respectable, professional manner

Work Effectively in Diverse Teams

  • Respect cultural differences and work effectively with people from a range of social and cultural backgrounds
  • Respond open-mindedly to different ideas and values
  • Leverage social and cultural differences to create new ideas and increase both innovation and quality of work


Manage Projects

  • Set and meet goals, even in the face of obstacles and competing pressures
  • Prioritize, plan and manage work to achieve the intended result

Produce Results

  • Demonstrate additional attributes associated with producing high quality products including the abilities to:
    • Work positively and ethically
    • Manage time and projects effectively
    • Multi-task
    • Participate actively, as well as be reliable and punctual
    • Present oneself professionally and with proper etiquette
    • Collaborate and cooperate effectively with teams
    • Respect and appreciate team diversity
    • Be accountable for results


Guide and Lead Others

  • Use interpersonal and problem-solving skills to influence and guide others toward a goal
  • Leverage strengths of others to accomplish a common goal
  • Inspire others to reach their very best via example and selflessness
  • Demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior in using influence and power

Be Responsible to Others

  • Act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind

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1 Almeida, C. & Steinberg, A. (Eds.). (2001). Connected Learning Communities: A Toolkit for Reinventing High School. Boston, MA: Jobs for the Future, 77.

2Almeida, C. & Steinberg, A. (Eds.). (2001). Connected Learning Communities: A Toolkit for Reinventing High School. Boston, MA: Jobs for the Future, 81.

3 In 1991 the U.S. Department of Labor published a series of documents outlining the findings of The Secretary's Commission On Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS). The Commission crafted a list of five "competencies" and three sets of "foundation" skills and personal qualities that summarized what they found to be required for individuals to succeed in the workplace - competencies and skills that all students should have before they leave school.