When it came time for in-service training for teachers at Benton High and Grade schools, they did what came naturally. They went to school.
The teachers opted to spend their afternoon on a tour of Rend Lake College, learning about its latest developments and programs available. Among the stops on the tour was the new Applied Science Center, which is hosting its first classes this semester. This new facility has allowed for a drastic expansion of RLC’s Agricultural Business, Agricultural Mechanics, Agricultural Production, Heavy Equipment and Diesel Technology programs.
For the first time, students will be able to pull a semitrailer into a service bay and work underneath it from a service pit. Other bays allow students room to work on agricultural and construction equipment. Two classrooms feature observation windows which will allow students to hear instructors discuss topics while watching related work occurring in the lab area.
The Benton teachers also discussed RLC’s new Wireless Communication Technician curriculum with project leader Chris Sink. This fall is the first semester of courses in this program, which is funded through a federal Title III grant.
According to Sink, students in this program can learn about cell phones and towers, but it does not stop there. Wireless technology can encompass wireless networking, Voice-Over IP, wireless Internet service and much more, and the technology and its uses are expanding at an amazing pace.
Sink said people may soon be browsing the Internet or receiving high-definition television on their cell phones. As another example of the broadening use of wireless technology, Sink said casinos could place wireless devices on their gambling chips, allowing casino officials to know how many chips any given customer has on hand at any point in time.
“We are one of the very few places in the nation that offers this program,” said Pat Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer of the RLC Foundation.
The group also stopped by the renovated Learning Enhancement Center, a centralized location for tutoring, mentoring and studying now located in the Academic Building. All student athletes are required to attend the LEC, making for several athletic teams with Academic All-American status, as well as several individuals.
Since the move to the Academic Building from the Advanced Technology Center on the southwest corner of campus, the amount of walk-in traffic at the LEC has tripled, said Tara Sullivan, LEC Coordinator. All students are welcome to use the center.
Laura Johnston, Coordinator of the RLC Aquatics Center, outlined for the group all the activities and classes available to the public. These include not only open swimming hours and swimming lessons, but a variety of fun and educational options. These include lifeguarding classes, water aerobics, arthritis aquatics and a new option this semester, an Aquatic Recreational Games class.
The Aquatics Center also is available for birthday and private parties and is available at no charge for graduation parties scheduled by in-district schools.
Anyone is invited to take a tryout of any Aquatics Center class at no charge, Johnston said, and she reminded everyone that the center is open all year long.
“Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t come swimming,” she said.
Another stop on the tour was the renovated Culinary Arts facility, headed up by new Chef Instructor Brian Kalata, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. The laboratory now features new, stainless-steel equipment and the program saw a record number of students this semester.
According to Kalata, his students will learn the fundamentals and build on them with each class. Each student will rotate duty as a kitchen manager, making sure the equipment and the facility are properly cleaned and cared for.
Future plans in the Culinary Arts program call for the remodeling of the former RLC Bookstore and Retail Store into a classroom with a demonstration area and restaurant which will be open to the public.
Kalata also has signed up for an exchange program to travel to Europe to observe kitchens there while a European chef will visit Rend Lake College.
For any group wishing to take a tour of the college or to learn more about any of these new programs and facilities, call (618) 437-5321 or call toll-free (in-district only) at 1-800-369-5321.
For high-resolution versions of the above photos, follow the links in the captions.