State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly Visits Belleville High School

Marie Perry, Communications Director for the School District of Belleville

Dr. Jill Underly visits with Youth Apprentice Isaac Erb at Kelsch Machine Corporation. Photo courtesy of Marie Perry


February is CTE (Career & Technology Education) Month and Belleville High School (BHS) received a special visit on Tuesday, February 20th, when State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly stopped in to join students and staff to learn more about the innovative programming offered in this small rural school.  Dr. Underly took time with District Administrator Nate Perry to tour the high school’s STEAM Lab, Culinary Arts classroom, and also see the work students are engaged in as Youth Apprentices through Belleville’s School-to-Career Program.

“The School District of Belleville was honored to host State Superintendent Underly on Tuesday.  Her visit places a spotlight on Belleville High School as one of the outstanding career and technical education programs in Wisconsin.  As we expect of our Wildcat students, they showed how impressive they are - even at a state level - with their performance and skills,” says Perry.

In Belleville, teachers are preparing students for future careers through the technical education programming they offer.  Whether a student is interested in developing knowledge and skills on projects using 3D printers, laser engravers, plasma cutters, woodworking machines; or, learning how they can prepare nutritional offerings through their culinary arts curriculum, Belleville High School has an educational path forward.  In this manner, students learn how to turn their passions into real world experiences that prepare them for future careers.

Knowing how to teach the skills needed for the workplace is key for the success of many Belleville students engaged in Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum, and local businesses are ready to meet these students where they are with work-related job experiences.  Students of James Pickett and Nicholas Berthelon use experience in the in-school Wildcat Manufacturing program – a student-run business that creates custom-made products to help students learn what it is like to work in a manufacturing environment.  While some students are working on smaller custom orders like planters and plaques, others work on large scale projects like responding to a need for a new storage shed for the middle school grounds.  During the 2023-24 school year, the shed has been completely designed and built by graduating seniors who have developed their skill sets as they have advanced through the manufacturing curriculum during their time at BHS.

Others take their skill sets directly to local manufacturing businesses and mentor for 1 to 2 years as a Youth Apprentice.  During her visit, Dr. Underly was lucky to see some of Belleville’s finest students who are currently working at Kelsch Machine Corporation in Belleville as paid interns.  Isaac Erb is one of those apprentices who Dr. Underly witnessed learning on-the-job skills at Kelsch.  When she arrived, he was checking out some parts he was working with for his apprenticeship.

Erb acknowledges, “It was kind of cool to have people from the state level come and check out what we are doing at Kelsch.”

This school-to-work program offers a win-win situation for apprentices who want to develop what they have learned in the classroom and take it to the next level while still in high school.  It really helps prepare Belleville’s students as they choose their career paths.

Mrs. Gartley, STC Coordinator, has helped many of her students find the right Youth Apprenticeship to help launch their career goals and it is important to show what students are capable of which made hosting Dr. Underly such a treat.

Gartley notes, “One of my favorite quotes is – ‘Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand.’  One of the best parts of my job, as both the STC Coordinator and CTE instructor, is creating opportunities to involve my students in their own development of employment, technical and life skills.  These students were able to communicate these skills with confidence to Dr. Underly, her staff and our school board members.  It was a proud teacher moment for me!”

For a small school like Belleville High School to demonstrate what it offers its students on a state level through a visit from its State Superintendent truly helps frame the work educators can and are doing in Wisconsin to provide a better future for its students – even in its more rural areas where resources are less prevalent.

Underly highlights, “It was my pleasure to spend time in Belleville on Tuesday.  The kids were so incredibly friendly and engaging – I especially loved experiencing the tech shop area and culinary classes, and talking to the kids about their projects and hearing from them on the opportunities career and technical education opens up for them.  I enjoyed talking with Isaac about his experience with youth apprenticeship, too.  Everyone is so passionate about career and technical education at Belleville, and that speaks to the incredible leadership and priorities of the school board and administration.”