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Gaining Real-World Perspectives: A Teacher Externship with Kaiser Permanente

Oct 5, 2023

Alethea Smith, a business teacher at Owings Mills High School, recently took part in the Maryland Chamber Foundation’s Teacher Externship program, spending four-weeks working with Kaiser Permanente to gain a deep understanding of the work being done by a leader in the healthcare and insurance industries and the many career pathways that exist in these fields.

See what Alethea had to say about her experience and how it will shape her classroom moving forward:

Q: Tell us a little bit about your role as a Business teacher. What is the most rewarding part of your work as an educator?

A: What I find most rewarding is the opportunity to build connections with students and provide them with valuable lessons and experiences that will shape their future. Many of my students are uncertain about their post-high school or college paths, and witnessing them find a career they are excited about, choose business-related degrees or embark on entrepreneurial journeys fills me with immense pride.

Q: What sparked your interest in participating in the Maryland Chamber Foundation’s Teacher Externship Program?

A: I am always on the lookout for experiences that can enhance my understanding of local industries and businesses so I can share those with my students.

The Teacher Externship program provided a remarkable opportunity to gain insights into the inner workings of a leading organization like Kaiser Permanente and explore career pathways within the healthcare and insurance sectors.

Q: Tell us about some of the activities you engaged in, and the jobs and career paths you explored, during your externship with Kaiser Permanente.

A: I had the privilege of meeting and working with various individuals within the organization. This included meeting individuals who support Kaiser Permanente's administrative functions, participating in insightful workshops focused on enhancing patient care and services, and touring the state-of-the-art Kaiser Permanente Lutherville-Timonium Medical Center.

I also explored roles in areas including Human Resources, Sales, Sales support, and Community Relations.

Q: What were some of your most significant takeaways?

A: I have learned so much about the behind the scenes of healthcare. There are so many people — and a such a diverse array of roles — needed to grow and support the business, and they all must work in coordination with one another to be successful.

I discovered that Kaiser Permanente is much more than just a health care insurance provider. It functions as an integrated care provider, working collaboratively to support the growth of the company and — most importantly — to ensure that patients receive the best care and experience.

Another big takeaway for me was the number of community initiatives that Kaiser Permanente is spearheading to support healthy living, both mentally and physically, for all community members, including those who aren’t Kaiser Permanente members.

Q: What advice would you give other teachers and host companies who are considering participating in the Teacher Externship program.

A: I would wholeheartedly encourage it! As a teacher, you gain fresh perspective into how what you are teaching is applied in the real world. It also broadens your awareness of the trends various industries are focused on, what skills they are looking for in their workforce and the impact businesses are having on communities.

For host companies, this opportunity serves as a valuable introduction not only to teachers but also to the multitude of students they influence. It presents a chance to showcase the remarkable businesses within our state and the diverse career paths available for students to pursue.

Teacher Externships create a ripple effect — expanding teachers' perspectives so they can illuminate bright futures for students. We are so grateful to Alethea, Kaiser Permanente and all of the externs and host companies for their invaluable contributions to the Maryland Chamber Foundation’s Externship Program.