Career Showcase: How One Local Teacher is Helping Her Students Invest in Their Future.

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Springfield Public Schools (SPS) is Missouri’s largest school districtwhere more than 25,000 students attend 35 elementary schools, nine middle schools, and five high schools. SPS prides itself on a long tradition of quality education and exceeding community expectations. To provide this quality of education, sometimes a teacher will do some outside-the-box thinking and develop a unique lesson, with the hope of leaving an impact beyond the single year they have with their students.

Ms. Barker teaches 5th grade at Robberson, a K-5 elementary school serving over 300 students from the Springfield area. She developed a new teaching unit focused on careers, with the goal of helping students understand the importance of hard work and pursuing education and training.

“At the beginning of the school year, I asked my students what they wanted to be when they grow up,” Ms. Barker said, “and more than half said they didn’t want to do anything. Some said they wanted to stay home and play video games.”

So to get her students excited about the idea of work, Ms. Barker had her students research occupations, select a job they wanted to learn about, study the income ranges for that job, develop budgets for managing the money they would earn, and invent something that could be used in their jobs to make them better or safer.

“Through projects like these, students learn to invest in themselves,” Ms. Barker said.

Investment from the Community

As the unit began in the Fall of 2018, Ms. Barker was put in contact with Mark Cook, CEO of CSI, and Elaine Roggow, head of CSI’s Charitable Events Committee. CSI had a previous history of partnering with Robberson by providing meals to students who wouldn’t have food on the weekends. With 26% of people in Greene County living in food-insecure homes, many students at Robberson were among those affected.

Mark and Elaine visited Robberson to learn how CSI could further support the dedicated instructors and administrators in serving their students. It was on this visit that they first met Ms. Barker, and after learning about Ms. Barker’s focus on work, Mark offered to have employees from CSI visit Robberson and speak with the students about the kinds of work that employees enjoy doing.

“Once students heard about the rewards of working and the opportunities for learning new skills, they got excited about working somewhere like CSI,” said Ms. Barker. “It helped them imagine how rewarding work actually is.”

CSI’s partnership with Robberson is important because Community is a core CSI value.

Mark said, “CSI should be finding ways to participate, as a team, by contributing to the community. Our people want to help. This is another way we can work together to make a difference in the lives of young children, their teachers, and their families.”

CSI employees have also learned from the students. “I visited the class and talked about my working career,” said Aaron Ipock, Finishing Craftsman. “The students had great questions for me, and I was able to witness all of the amazing and hard work they’ve put into their inventions for the careers they are studying. It was inspired!”


Continual Support

CSI has stayed in close contact with Robberson Community School ever since. In February of 2019, CSI employees volunteered to help throw a Valentine’s Day party for the students—including craft activities and snacks.

On April 8th, CSI hosted a visit from Robberson so students could see CSI personnel at work, tour the office, and talk with employees. In the warehouse and shop, students practiced pulling products, working on pumps, and even helping to laser etch their names onto a CSI dog tag to take home. They finished their visit with a pizza party in the training room.

“My favorite part was finding items on the shelves,” said Junior, an eleven-year-old. “I also learned that big projects don’t take as long to complete when you have a good team of friends working together to get them done.”

Several students noticed the importance of teamwork. Shannon (11) said, “It takes a large team to build everything. I met the designers who design the stuff and the welders who actually make it. Without both, you can’t get the project done.”

Ms. Barker commented on how beneficial field trips like these are. “I’ve already told my fellow teachers to plan for more trips like this in the future,” she said. “Field trips like these, to actual businesses, help my students see where hard work can take them.”

Showcasing Their Inventions

The students concluded their unit by hosting a Student Career Showcase on April 16th. Local businesspeople were invited to attend, and the kids presented their inventions “Shark Tank” style and fielded questions related to their business cases. Attendees then offered feedback to the students on how well they presented.

Two boys, Sanjay (11) and Ro (11), showcased their prototype Robotic Thermal Scanner, which would be used by police and military to help distinguish between friends and enemies in the field. A thermal chip would be placed on the helmet of a teammate, and you would see the signature from the chip through a lens built into the soldier’s headgear. “We wanted to invent something to help keep our soldiers safe,” said Sanjay. “We both have family that have served in the military and we want to make sure everyone who serves comes home safe.”

There was no shortage of passion, creativity, intelligence, and excitement as these child-entrepreneurs worked to present the most compelling case for their inventions. “I invented a shoe that has a removable heel that can be replaced with a different style,” said Piper (11). “Ladies love a variety of shoes, but they don’t always have the money to buy multiple pairs. Now they can buy one shoe and change out the heel for whatever style they want.”

The transformation for these students over the past school year has been evident.

As Ms. Barker mentioned, “At the beginning of the year, most of these students were either too quiet to talk or didn’t care enough to pay attention. Now, seeing them present their inventions with such passion to Springfield business leaders, it’s amazing to see the change.”

Future Support Plans

In the fall of 2019, CSI will launch its Lunch Buddies program for employees to spend time with students during school lunch periods. “The chance for a student to spend time with an adult who cares enough about them to take time out of their day and thinks they're special is so important,” said Elaine. “Plus, our employees have the opportunity to invest in the next generation.


Central States Industrial Equipment (CSI) is a leader in distribution of hygienic pipe, valves, fittings, pumps, heat exchangers, and MRO supplies for hygienic industrial processors, with four distribution facilities across the U.S. CSI also provides detail design and execution for hygienic process systems in the food, dairy, beverage, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and personal care industries. Specializing in process piping, system start-ups, and cleaning systems, CSI leverages technology, intellectual property, and industry expertise to deliver solutions to processing problems. More information can be found at