During a Campus Improvement Team meeting in early October of 2017, a question by Immanuel Christian School administration was asked, "What can the school do to help retain students from the 8th grade into our high school?". Every year Immanuel fights to keep students from the 8th-grade transition into high school due to many different factors. Many parents feel that moving their student to a public school will give the student better opportunities and interaction with a larger student body. The idea of going to a magnet school for a focused education in a particular field is also appealing to other parents. Of course, athletics is always a talked about topic too. So how can we better retain students at Immanuel Christian School?
After the Campus Improvement Team meeting in October of 2017, the idea of the Cisco Networking Academy came to light. A discussion with the administration about the Cisco Academy lead to a few eye-openers. First, Immanuel Christian School would provide high school students the opportunity to earn Cisco certifications through the Cisco Networking Academy. Second, the critical thinking skills gained from the Cisco classes would be invaluable for the students as they move through their education and life. Third, the Cisco Networking Academy will set Immanuel Christian School apart from the other schools in El Paso, thus giving the students and their parents a reason to continue through high school at Immanuel Christian School. The Cisco Networking Academy would give Immanuel Christian School an edge, so the process of becoming a Cisco Networking Academy was explored.
After talking with Cisco about the academy, Immanuel Christian School learned some exciting news. First, the curriculum for the academy will be provided at no cost to Immanuel Christian School. Second, a yearly support fee will cost the school $600, and this is a fraction of the price compared to other curriculum offerings. Immanuel Christian School is left to provide equipment for the labs and the teacher training costs that will support the curriculum Cisco-provided. We will go over the expenses a bit later. With all the benefits that the Academy will bring to the school and the students, Immanuel decided to proceed with becoming an academy. Immanuel Christian School officially became a Cisco Networking Academy on January 20th, 2018.
Current Status of the Academy
After becoming a Cisco Networking Academy, Immanuel Christian School set out to have three teachers certified to teach the curriculum. All three teachers have passed the first-class offering and are certified to teach the Cisco Networking Essentials class. The cost of the initial training was included in the first-year support fee. Before the 2018-2019 school year, the school worked on plans for the classroom, lab, and incorporation into the current Immanuel Christian School curriculum. The first item to tackle was, who would be taking the Cisco classes. First, Immanuel Christian School would require that all 8th graders take a Cisco class as part of their technology requirement. Having a Cisco class for the 8th graders exposes them to technology and Cisco thus building excitement and enticing them to stay through high school. For the high school students, Cisco classes would be offered as an elective. With the intent that if a student remains in the program throughout high school, then he/she could become Cisco certified before graduating high school. Having Cisco certifications gives the student a significant advantage over others when entering the workforce.
The Cisco class layout is as follows, 8th-grade students will take the Cisco Networking Essentials class. This class is a high-level overview of networking. They are covering such topics as wireless security and IP address. Also, in this class, the students learn about and get to make ethernet cables. Making the ethernet cables was a hit with the students; they enjoyed the hands-on learning. In high school, students are offered the Cisco Certified Networking Associate 1 (CCNA), CCNA 2, CCNA 3, and CCNA 4. Each of the classes builds on each other. The CCNA classes dive deeper into networking concepts and applications of various networks. After CCNA 2 and CCNA 4, the student can test for a Cisco certification.
Currently, Immanuel Christian School has 28 students in the 8th-grade class and 18 in the high school elective class. Since this is the first year of the Cisco Academy, all students are taking the Networking Essentials class. For the 2019-2020 school year, Immanuel Christian School will add the CCNA classes as we progress through the program together with the students. The overwhelming majority are enjoying the class and have provided some positive feedback to the teachers and staff. The students also express that the class is challenging, but they understand that they need hard classes to advance in the future. There have been a few instances where students have revealed how the class has helped them outside the school. In one example, a student told us how she was able to troubleshoot a problem at her home with a printer and some networking issues. The smile on her face was priceless, seeing how proud she felt when she accomplished solving a problem that her family may have had to pay someone else to fix. She said that if it were not for the Cisco class, she would have never been able to figure out the problem at her home. Another student shared how he was able to help build out his father's business network. The student also shared that he had made some mistakes at first, but after more time in the Cisco class, he learned what he had done wrong and was able to make the corrections. Hearing both of them share their stories and see how proud they were is why the program exists.
Today the students work primarily in the classroom. There is a mix of lectures, reading, and simulations. The lab is available for the students to use; however, there are only two lab kits for the Networking Essentials class. When the students do have a chance to use the lab, they get more out of the lessons because there are using actual equipment. The hands-on aspect of the lab really makes a tremendous difference for the students. When you ask the students about the class, they all say they would like more lab time.
The need for more lab time comes down to the need for more equipment. Each lab kit costs about $2600-$2700 and supports 2-4 students. Nine to ten additional kits would be needed to support all the students currently enrolled in the class. Other areas that need improvement is the furniture that is currently in the classroom and the lab. The classroom and lab all use plastic six-foot tables. The problem with the plastic tables is the static that is produced by them, potently harming the lab equipment via static electricity discharge. The same goes for the chairs that the students use in class. The cost of tables and chairs for the classroom and lab would be about $13,500. A couple of other items that would be helpful would be a couple large whiteboards/glass blackboards to draw up ideas, and a brighter projector/digital touch panel.
The future of the Cisco Academy at Immanuel Christian School is bright. The students are thoroughly enjoying what they are learning and progressing nicely. The parents recognize the value and opportunity the students have ahead of them. One of the great parts of the Cisco curriculum is that Immanuel Christian School is not limited to just a few classes that were listed above. There is plenty more to offer such as Cyber Security, C+ coding, and wireless courses. The plan is to provide more as we grow as an Academy. One of the first areas of growth would be in the cybersecurity area. Cybersecurity is in high demand and would place Immanuel Christian School students in an excellent position for employment. Of course, the students would have access to what Immanuel Christian School offers first. However, in the future, the Academy could be opened up to the public. Pricing for the public-facing classes would have to follow the non-profit status of the school but could certainly help support the Academy.
Immanuel Christian School can help provide an excellent opportunity for the student body to succeed in the future. The strong academics Immanuel Christian School already offers, and the addition of the Cisco Networking Academy puts students ahead of their peers. Thus, giving Immanuel Christian School students to tools needed to excel beyond their time at Immanuel Christian School.
" I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought."
1 Corinthians 1:10