Yohn goes to the head of the class at tech school

PAT FRIDGEN
Keith Yohn hopes that by the time school resumes in January, he will have made the transition to his new office at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center. The new administrative director, his days have been busy since he was appointed in October.

Some advice Keith Yohn heeded early on paid off years later. New to the workforce, a supervisor told him to get every certification possible. It could come in handy in the future and would never hurt.

On Oct. 28 Yohn was appointed administrative director of the Franklin County Career and Technology Center. He had served as interim director since Aug. 11, when James Duffey resigned to take the superintendent position in the Fannett-Metal school district. Yohn had already taught at the school for 22 years, but his broad credentials made him the obvious choice.

"He'll do a great job for us," said Mike Shindle, vice president of the Greencastle-Antrim School Board and G-A representative on the FCCTC Joint Operating Committee. "He was the only one of five applicants with all the required certifications and experience."

The JOC, comprised of members from five school districts, was in charge of the hiring.

The road he traveled

Yohn, 46 and a Greencastle native, graduated from G-AHS in 1982. Always mechanically inclined, he attended FCCTC for machine shop while in high school. He then went to work for various shops and added construction on the side. College was not on his radar screen.

Eventually he realized he had something to offer trade-oriented students, but he had to be considered an expert in his craft. Yohn took the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute assessment offered through Pennsylvania State University. After a three-hour written test, he passed a five-hour practical test under the scrutiny of another machinery expert. Thus certified by the Bureau of Career and Technical Education, an arm of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Yohn had the experience necessary to teach in a tech school. He went to work for FCCTC in 1989 and he went to college. While 60 credits were required for a permanent teaching certificate, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in workforce education and kept going. For two years he commuted weekends to State College for a master's degree in education.

"My truck knew how to get there without me driving," he said.

Yohn also picked up other certifications along the way. At FCCTC he started as a machine shop instructor, then switched to building trades and maintenance for 13 years, and in 2005 moved over to co-op education coordinator. Then the director spot opened up.

"In the back of my mind, a goal was to move into administration at some time," Yohn said, "but it was nothing I had to do. I have a fond love of this school."

The JOC asked him to fill in on an interim basis, and advertised the vacancy.

"I'm glad how it turned out," Yohn said of his new job. "I think I have a lot to offer."

He is the first director in the school's 41-year history to also have been a student there.

It's not really work

FCCTC, 2463 Loop Road, Chambersburg, serves 400 students from Greencastle-Antrim, Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Tuscarora and Waynesboro each semester. Students can enroll for one semester per year starting as sophomores. Classes are offered in business, construction, production, service and transportation academies. The concentrations range from graphic communication to welding to agricultural mechanics to masonry to cosmetology. New courses will be added when a 52,000 square foot expansion is complete. Adult education classes from Penn State are also offered.

"It's a great school," Yohn emphasized. "A lot of people in Franklin County don't know it's here."

His goal is to provide the best programs for students so they are ready for careers and post-secondary education. His mission is that they become lifelong learners. He has told students his parents and FCCTC were the foundations of his own life. They should never sell themselves short, but be enthusiastic, work hard, and maybe even go to college.

Yohn is a familiar face in Greencastle, where he lives with his wife Judy and son A.J. He coached soccer for junior varsity boys, varsity boys and varsity girls in different stints from 1999 to 2010. On Dec. 20 he turned in his coaching resignation.

"The time's not there," he rued. "I'll miss it."

He is proud of the many FCCTC students who have gone on to successful careers, many now thriving business owners in Franklin County. Of last year's senior class, 48 percent intended to work fulltime and 57 percent to continue their education.

"It's so fun to watch these kids blossom," he concluded. "This is not a job. I get to go to school."