Three of Questar III’s new Teaching Assistants join us after completing a BOCES program themselves. Brian Dierkes, Mark Kristiansen, Sebastien Vickers (L-R)

Students taking a CTE program have a wide selection of opportunities available to them once they successfully complete their programs and graduate from high school. Some may attend college or trade school, join the military. or go directly into the workforce.

Some may even choose to return where they started, but in a different capacity. The Rensselaer Educational Center has some new staff members this year whose varied career pathways have led them back to where they started: in Career & Technical Education.

Brian Dierkes, the TA in the Auto Services Program, graduated in 2004 from the Automotive Technology Program at the Questar III Columbia-Greene Educational Center. He was always interested in anything with wheels, and assisted in his family’s farm and bus business, fixing tractors, small engines and other equipment. As a CTE student, he participated in SkillsUSA, was part of a 3rd place winning team in the ENYCAR Competition, and was the CGEC winner of the Times Union Scholar Award. He credits his Questar III instructors, Mr. Elinson and Mr. Baldwin, for their extensive automotive industry knowledge and exceptional instructional abilities. After high school, he went to HVCC for the GM ASEP Program and worked with his sponsor, Ruges GMC until the business closed and then explored a variety of careers. He mentored fellow employees and always had an interest in becoming an instructor, finding a real joy in teaching.

“It feels great to be back and teaching a trade; you feel like you are making a difference in students’ lives and letting them know they can accomplish anything they set their minds to do,” says Mr. Dierkes.

Mark Kristiansen, currently a TA in REC’s new Heavy Equipment Operations and Maintenance Program, graduated from the REC Construction Technology Program in 2018. One of his favorite projects was building a shed, where his partner on that class project is now his fiancée and will soon be his partner in life! After graduation, he was hired at Troy Sand and Gravel, and his job duties included operating heavy machinery. When his former REC teacher, Mr. McGillycuddy contacted him about the job opening here, he jumped at the opportunity to work with heavy equipment and the students at REC. Mark is enjoying working with the program’s teacher, Mr. O’Grady, and learning more from him about how to interact with students and share his knowledge with them.

Kristiansen and his fiancee, Breanna, at REC in 2017.

Sebastien Vickers, the Teaching Assistant in Culinary Arts, graduated from Herkimer-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES in 2012 from the Digital Multimedia Program. He didn’t see a lot of job opportunities locally in that field, so he decided to switch to his second career choice and graduated from Schenectady County Community College with a degree in Culinary Arts. He worked in a variety of food service jobs, including at Disney World, in addition to attending Sage for a degree in Criminal Justice. While employed at a DEC summer camp, and thinking back to SCCC professors who asked him to assist struggling students, he realized he liked to teach Culinary and applied for the position at Questar III. He had the following advice for students interested in the culinary field.

“Even if you end up in a different career field, in Culinary you learn practical skills you can always use – you have to eat every night and feed your family, so if you have an inclination to do it, to try Culinary, do it! You can always use the skills you learned.”


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