The Alchemy of CTE

By Donna Wright

An interview with Jeremy Sheaffer, Teacher at Whitehall High School, Michigan

Career and technical education (CTE) has helped to positively shape Jeremy Sheaffer’s life for decades, providing rewarding career development experiences and fueling his passion for lifelong learning.   Today, Sheaffer is a 9th Grade teacher at Whitehall High School where he introduces students to Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and the world of engineering.  

Ironically, as a student himself back in the 90’s, Sheaffer disliked school – a lot!  Fortunately for him, his mother worked in CTE education and encouraged him to consider CTE as a path for obtaining the skills needed to get a job and earn a living.  Sheaffer followed her advice, he graduated and landed his first job in industry working for a die-cast tooling manufacturer where he made a decent wage.  “At that time it was all about just wanting to earn a good salary.”, Sheaffer commented. 

Sheaffer worked hard, he continued to learn through his job experience and he always looked for ways to optimize his performance, which did not go unnoticed by his employer, and over time his responsibilities and paycheck grew.  Shaeffer credits his early success to hard work, but more importantly to his ability to solve problems.

Sheaffer’s CTE education and early career advances motivated him to further pursue an education in engineering.   Shaeffer talked to his employer about wanting to pursue a degree and the need for some flexibility in his work schedule.  He was delighted when his employer supported his request and he began the next phase of his career during which he worked full-time, attended classes, and ultimately received a Bachelor of Science in Manufacturing Engineering.  The support and generosity that his employer provided taught him a valuable lesson about collaboration, which is that not only is it essential for success, but it can be game-changing. 

Sheaffer continued to ascend the career ladder working his way up from shift supervisor to production manager toward the next step which would have been Plant Manager.   However, before accepting the offer he did some soul-searching and realized that while he had a talent for optimizing processes what he truly enjoyed most was developing other members of the team and helping them to grow.   With that realization, he decided not to pursue plant management, and instead, he enrolled in college once more to pursue a teaching certificate in the hopes of reaching a new goal – one in which he could combine his educational and industry experience with his passion for helping others to grow.

Having successfully completed his teaching certification several years ago, Sheaffer is living his dream, working as a high school teacher teaching his students to become problem-solvers.

Sheaffer selected Siemens Engineering Design problem-based curriculum for his class. From his perspective, “It [the curriculum] provides excellent examples and the scaffolding necessary for teaching students real-world knowledge and skills.”

Sheaffer also commented that “project-based learning, (centered on problem-solving) equates to life, because life is all about solving problems. Theory and formulas are good to learn, but on their own they are not conducive to success.”  

Sheaffer is excited about sharing his industry knowledge with his students, teaching them to begin with the end in mind and then working collaboratively to solve problems, just like it is done in manufacturing.  

Sheaffer also attended Siemens teacher training program and he commented, “the week-long training program that I attended was outstanding on many levels; it really opened my eyes to the abundant possibilities the curriculum offers, it reinforced my belief in the pursuit of life-long learning, and it even helped me to gain a better understanding of what can be done remotely. I also met and worked with other experienced educators on an exercise that was exemplary.”

Sheaffer, a self-proclaimed life-long learner, has successfully reinvented himself and his career a few times now.  He’s had some help along the way, from his family, from his employers, and even from his former educators – many of whom he still engages with in his current academic-industry ecosystem in Michigan.   For example, he works closely with his former high school teacher and lifelong mentor, who recruited him to his current position.   He collaborates regularly with his local community college, Muskegon Community College, around curriculum topics and learning credits for his students and with other educators in Siemens’ Academic Partner network to stimulate new ideas and innovation in teaching.  He also works closely with local Fab Labs and industry partners to give his students access to real-world industrial machinery.

A CTE success story in and of himself, Sheaffer is fully committed to helping his students develop and pursue their dreams.   When asked about his secret for success he said, ”if you are willing to work hard, remain open to learning new things, and work collaboratively with others, then you can turn something seemingly ordinary into something rather extraordinary.”   


For more information on Siemens Engineering Design curriculum or Solid Edge resources and training for educators and students, please visit

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at