In the mid-1980s, Joan Huston and Paul Huddleston were students at Woodland High School. Neither planned to go to college, but both had an interest in technology. That interest led them to the Computer Technology and Digital Services Technology programs (now one program called ITS3) at Cascadia Tech (then Clark County Skills Center).
Three decades later, Huston is the new assistant director of Cascadia Tech, and Huddleston is athletic director for Woodland Public Schools. Both credit their Cascadia Tech experiences with helping them find their careers.
Computers were just beginning to revolutionize the workplace when the two were in high school. Huston overheard an older student raving about her experience at Cascadia Tech, so she went to see her high school counselor about it. “My counselor tried to talk me out of Computer Technology,” recalls Huston. “It was the ‘80’s, and it wasn’t something a girl should do, but I was adamant that I wanted that program. I’m so glad I advocated for myself.”
She and Huddleston both discovered that Cascadia Tech was exactly what they needed. Huddleston, a high school athlete, found the program to be compatible with his extracurricular activities, since the sessions were in the morning. Huston discovered a love of learning that carried over into her studies at Woodland High School.
“[Cascadia Tech] literally put me on a different path in life that I never could have imagined for myself,” says Huston. “My [Cascadia Tech] instructors taught me how to learn and gave me the confidence to believe I could succeed. They also gave me experience and the skills needed to work and pay my way through college.”
Huston became her family’s first college graduate. She credits a Cascadia Tech instructor, who insisted she attend college and helped her with the enrollment and registration process. Huston says, “I could have never done it without her. She believed in me.” Huston went on to become a teacher, then a school administrator, now at Cascadia Tech.
“The assistant director position at Cascadia Tech was what I have been preparing for my entire working life,” she says. “I earned my CTE [Career and Technical Education] Director certificate while teaching in Woodland and hoped to use it someday. I believe in career and technical training because it’s made me who I am. I believe our students at CTA can have the same experience I had, and I know many of them do.”
Like Huston, Huddleston also found his way to college and pursued a career in education. He loved technology, but there weren’t a lot of technical college options at that time. He ultimately decided to go to community college for his associate’s degree, then got his bachelor’s in elementary education from Central Washington University.
“I decided on education because I liked working with kids, and I knew that if I taught I could also coach,” he explains. “Sports and technology are the two things I’m passionate about.”
Huddleston’s passion for technology and experience from his Cascadia Tech program created opportunities for him when he began teaching in the Kalama School District.
“When I first started teaching, the internet was just starting, and computer networking was just hitting schools,” says Huddleston. “Thanks to my tech skills, I was able to help fellow teachers when they were having issues. My superintendent realized my abilities and created the technology/athletic director position for me.”
In 2010 Huddleston took the position of athletic director for Woodland Public Schools. He still had a passion for the trades, so he went through the CTE Director Internship Program to also become the CTE director at Woodland for three years. This year he decided to only focus on one director position (athletics), but he is keeping up with technology by teaching an AP computer science class. He still frequently sees his former classmate, friend and fellow “tech nerd” Joan Huston.
As for Huston, she is excited to be working with the teachers at Cascadia Tech in her new leadership role.
“We share a passion for CTE and for student success,” she says. “We see and understand our students’ potential. It’s our job to ready them for the workforce and to help them see the potential in themselves.”