Directing the care of a child

Published 8:23 am Wednesday, February 28, 2007

By By Lydia Grimes – features reporter
Jessica Blankenship is one of the newest teachers at the Escambia-Brewton Career Technical Center. She looks as if she should be one of the students because she is so young. But a few minutes into a conversation it becomes quite apparent that she is no student. She seems as if she has been at the job for years.
She just took over the position of teaching Child Care and Elder Services at the center in January. She went into the job in the middle of a school year when a teacher resigned.
It is part of her job to teach the students how to teach and deal with preschoolers. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, there are from eight to 12 preschoolers who come to the center. High school students from T.R. Miller, W.S. Neal and Flomaton are bused to the center every day and those destined for Blankenship's class are the teachers of the preschool children. It is a school within a school.
The Escambia-Brewton Career Technical Center has programs that will benefit those who may or may not be planning to go to college after high school. It teaches students the things they can use if they decide to go into a trade, but they are the types of things that can be used by everyone. The Child Care and Elder Services is only one of many things taught at the school.
On the days the preschoolers are not there, Blankenship goes from being the director of a preschool to teaching the high school students.
Not all students who come to the class are teaching the kids. Some of them are working in the kitchen to make sure the children have a well-balanced meal while they are at the center. They are learning good health habits along with how to teach.
One of the newer teaching tools this year are the &#8220Ready or Not Tots” that Blankenship is excited about. These are dolls that look like newborns and weigh five pounds. The dolls are passed out to students to show them what it is like to be responsible for a baby. They find out just how unpredictable and sometimes outright aggravating babies are. A real baby cries at the most inopportune times, and for all sorts of reasons.
The Tots are given to a student to keep for 48 hours. Students' parents are notified and need to accept the fact of how this ‘baby' can disrupt the family at home. Blankenship programs the babies before they are passed out to the students. During the next 48 hours they will cry for different reasons and it is up to the student to decide what to do. They are supplied with keys that are labeled hunger, diaper change, pain or sleep. There are also two additional alarms on the back of the baby. If someone tries to tamper with the baby's controls, a light will come on and can't be turned off by anyone else but Blankenship. The same thing happens if the baby is mistreated. There is an abuse light that comes on. There is also a panic key to use if none of the other keys make the baby quit crying, but the student will lose points if he uses it. There is a way to program the baby to show what the effects would be if it was drug infected.
The students have to carry the baby with them at all times and they are on duty to satisfy the baby's needs for the full 48 hours. The only time they don't have to tend to them is when they are in class at the high school. Then they can use a babysitting key, but if too much time is used, points are taken off the grade as they are if the abuse and tamper lights are on.
This is a long explanation for only one of the tools they use in the class, but it is an indication of how serious they are to teach the right things.
The class also caters to the needs of the elderly. They work with them throughout the year and each November they set aside time for the elderly to come to talk to the younger generation.
The preschoolers are not there on Thursday and Friday, so that is the time they do their bookwork and lesson plans for the next week.
Blankenship is not that much older than some of her own students but she said it hasn't been a problem so far.
Blankenship was born and raised in Brewton, one of two daughters of Terry and Jimmy Blankenship. She attended the city schools and graduated from T.R. Miller in 2003. While in school she was an &#8220A” student and was in the band for a while and then in the choir. She was a member of Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA).
She attended Auburn University and graduated in 2006 with a bachelor degree in Human Development and Family Studies. She is planning to get her teacher's certificate so she will be certified to teach at the high school level. She also is planning to get her masters degree.
She still lives at home with her parents and is active in her church. She loves to go camping, to the beach and Lake Martin. She has, in the past, been a collector of pigs and porcelain dolls, but she said that she became over run with them and doesn't do that anymore.
She is a very pretty, single young lady who is not married, but looking.

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