MERIDIAN, Idaho — In the West Ada School District, the Career and Technical Education Center is a head start on college and career training.

For some students, it can lead to industry certifications, college credit, even internships after graduation.

From classes like welding to auto tech, culinary arts and animal science, students get to try out future professions before entering the field or heading to college.

Steve Wilder, a  welding and veterinary science teacher at Meridian High, has been inspiring future vet techs and veterinarians for decades. 

"Mr. Wilder is a very great teacher," Michayla Tully said. "He actually taught my parents, which is really cool."  

"You walk in and he's with kids.  He's laughing with kids," Meridian High Principal Jill Lilienkamp added. "He's making kids feel comfortable with content that I would say is pretty difficult."

Wilder has helped expand the vet science program from a single class of about 16 students to two classes, each with more than 20 students, according to Staci Low, the director of the West Ada CTE program. 

Sierra Horton of Eagle High said she appreciated getting to take Wilder's classes while she is still in high school.

"I'm going to major in animal science and hope to pursue veterinary school, so it's a really cool class to take in high school," she said.

The classes give students the opportunity to try out different skills and potential profession, Wilder said, even if they ultimately decide that career path is not for them.  

"The opportunity for kids to choose a pathway that might be their career, that's motivating for me as a teacher," he said. "Uniquely, the kids have an opportunity to explore.  You know we find that about a third of them go, 'it's not my gig.' And that's OK!"

The students are able to get up close and personal with animal science, with trips to the Boise Zoo and CS Packing in Kuna to see the professionals at work. 

That kind of hands-on learning takes a lot of preparation, but Wilder says he doesn't mind. 

"That's the best part about teaching, though.  That's probably why I've stayed so long is it's a unique opportunity to let them take the next step or what I like to call raise the bar," he said.

"The students LOVE to take his courses," Low said. "He's very personable. He will do anything for a student."

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