The TIE Program: Loma Linda Academy’s Educational Phenomenon

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Published:
August 11, 2018

For nearly three decades, in an era when high school technically-oriented curricula experienced nationwide educational decline, Loma Linda Academy incorporated a unique and innovative technical program that defied accepted ideas and traditional perceptions about such curriculum. The TIE program not only demonstrated that technically-based programs are a dramatic enhancement to a host of careers (many for which technical studies are generally thought to be of no value) but also that technical exposure is actually a preferred background for many of these careers. One parent commented, “What you are describing my son will be doing in these classes would have better prepared me to be an orthopaedic surgeon than anything I ever took in school.”

The TIE program also demonstrated that, contrary to what is generally thought, many Adventist students and their parents are interested in such technically-based programs, and they are willing to make extra efforts to participate if they do not have to sacrifice the academic curriculum for the technical curriculum or vice versa.  During one candidate interview, a helicopter pilot told his son, “Tyler, this is wonderful! When I was in school, you had to choose one curriculum over the other. At this school, you get to take both.”

Late one afternoon in 1990, possessing both a mild dose of naivete and a heavy dose of personal philosophically-divined visioning, I entered a Loma Linda Academy English classroom to recommend to the high school curriculum committee that Loma Linda Academy initiate a four-year program of studies in Technology Education1  for interested students.

As proposed, the four-year curriculum would survey a wide range of technical knowledge and experiences designed to enhance student preparation for a host of future careers: medicine, dentistry, law, business, the arts, missions, various trades. The curriculum would be in addition to, not a substitution for, any standard high school academic coursework. The students would participate in both the academic and the technical curricula simultaneously, and because we were “integrating” both the academic and the technical in the school experience, the innovative program was titled “Technology Integrated Education” or “TIE.”

To facilitate the best selection of candidates who might express interest in participating in the program, candidates would be interviewed and tested for the available sixteen positions. Testing would utilize common career counseling evaluation instruments (CAPS, COPS, COPES), and each candidate’s parents would also attend the interview.  

In addition to exploring elementary robotics, aeronautics, CNC, and 3D printing, within the four year program were also basic experiences in engineering drawing, woodworking, CAD, architectural drafting, electricity,  metalworking and plastics experiences, and other technically-specific exposures too numerous to mention here. At one culmination point in the curriculum, students formed a small manufacturing business and mass produced a product of their designing.

The curriculum was so expansive that in some areas it was necessary for me to learn things that I myself had never been taught. One such fortuitous circumstance, providing needed exposure to aeronautics and aeronautic research, was my acceptance into NASA’s prestigious two-week Summer Teachers Workshop at Edwards Air Force Base in Lancaster, California.  

Because TIE coursework built continuously upon that which had been learned previously, no new students would enter the TIE program to fill any attritions or vacancies which might occur during the four year sequence. Also, students accepted into the program would understand that once the four-year sequence had begun, they would be required to complete the four-year program of TIE studies as long as they were a student at Loma Linda Academy. Students were also guaranteed that if any unanticipated scheduling anomaly occurred that might jeopardize any college prep coursework, they would not be required to maintain their commitment to TIE. Also, no additional tuition was required for participation.

To avoid scheduling conflicts with the TIE students’ regular academic course work, especially courses recommended for college prep, it was proposed that the TIE class would meet at 6:55 a.m., before the regular school day. Four years later, upon the group’s completion of the four-year curriculum, then, and only then, would a new group of sixteen students begin a new, four-year TIE sequence. TIE would only start a new group every four years.

Although I did not perceive it during my curriculum committee presentation, upon reflection some months later, it dawned upon me that the committee was likely shocked at such an unusual curriculum proposal. Yet, because of the program’s out-of-the-way scheduling design, the TIE program would not impact the overall academic program in any negative way. Should the committee risk giving the program a try, and it fail, no harm would be done, and school life would continue as always.

I also later concluded that likely contributing to any doubts the committee might have had about the TIE program’s success was concern over its lack of appeal to the educational appetite of LLA’s constituency.  Loma Linda Academy students are the offspring of PhDs, MDs, professors of Vascular Surgery, Physical Therapy, are leading educational innovators and thinkers, and of course, the students themselves are destined for college degrees and beyond. “These are not the kinds of parents and students who are interested in this kind of a class.” Even if there were six LLA families interested in such a program, the committee likely thought it would be an oddity.  

Following the committee’s approval to proceed with the “TIE experiment,” I left the room, and whereas the nuance of naivete may have proceeded me into the meeting, the frankness of the future followed me out of the meeting, down the hallway, and presented me with certain sudden realities and the overwhelming thought, “Good grief, whatever have I gotten myself into now?”

That first year for the sixteen available seats in the program, there were 28 applications for those first ever TIE interviews and testings. Twenty-six years and 400 TIE students later, this was the continuing history of the TIE program while I was the program's teacher. Between 15 and 18% of every LLA incoming freshman class requested TIE interviews each year.

The concept that we would take one group through one complete four year cycle sequence before starting another group never materialized. By second semester of that inaugural first year, Douglas Herrmann, high school principal, evidently perceived what he believed to be a certain potential, and instead of waiting for four years to pass before starting another TIE group into the program said, “Let’s see if we can start another group next year.” I felt such an approach would kill the program.  

In order not to interfere with other coursework in the TIE students’ busy schedules, and certainly college prep, we had scheduled the TIE program at 6:55 a.m., before school, away from the regular school day. Meeting the freshmen TIE students at 6:55 would mean a second group, the sophomore TIE students, would have to meet at some other class period during their regular school day, a time already filled with science, math, English, religion, PE, and other classes which made up a common high school academic regimen. With students’ schedules already full, and often this was the case with the caliber of students the TIE class was attracting, where could this second TIE group fit their TIE classes into their regular school day?

In response to my concern, principal Herrmann replied, “Let’s give it a try.” He continued to say this each year, as have other principals who succeeded him. The TIE program was so successful, and so well embraced by the LLA constituency, that never did we operate the program starting a new group only every four years. Thanks to an adventuring, innovative, and risk-taking principal, each year for over 28 years, a new crop of entering freshman and their parents have volunteered to add the TIE class to their busy college prep schedules.

It would be a grave error to not mention what I perceive as the Divine providence manifested in regards to TIE. Each succeeding year of the TIE program, in that era of concern about American high school students being not adequately prepared for college, additional high school graduation course requirements were added into a high schooler’s daily schedule by national “educational futurists.” One more math, science, English, PE, foreign language, a computer class or two, and what seemed like a list of never-ending other obligations and requirements were added to the high schooler’s academic load. (What most tuition paying parents are unaware of is that the costs of implementing these requirements consequently had to be reflected in rising tuition rates.)

These added course requirements so heavily impacted American high school schedules that no class periods were left for classic elective course options. Although the cries of dismay were heard from the music and fine arts curricula, courses in traditional technical and home economics curricula became nonexistent in American high schools. Industry also complained about their consequential suffering but to little avail. To fill this national educational gap, there were a few weak efforts to establish industry/academic consortiums, most notably in Wisconsin.

Despite these annual academic onslaughts, God (and I suspect creative principals, registrars, and a school counselor) managed behind the scenes to find ways for students to work TIE into their schedule and keep the TIE program roaring and alive. As one example of the administration’s creative and cooperative fluidity, the administration granted the request of a senior class president (his father was a technology education teacher in a local public school) to take his senior religion by home study so that he would not have to vacate his cherished TIE class to an impacted schedule.

In American culture, it is thought that such highly academically motivated students as those who attend Loma Linda Academy would not be interested (and do not need) such an educational experience. During the time I was affiliated with the TIE program, it attracted some of the brightest students on campus. Each year, three or four  graduating TIE students eventually became physicians, with similar numbers entering engineering and dentistry. The remainder of the class ferreting out into lawyers, businessmen/women, construction, and other professions. Usually the TIE students were class and Student Association officers or filled other leadership positions in campus organizations. If the school had a prestigious National Merit Finalist, often the recipient was a TIE student.  

Former TIE students travel the world for Nike and have been recruited by Apple and NASA. One stopped in to see me on her way to Texas in pursuit of a PhD in Archeological Anthropology. She had just finished studies at USC while working part time at the Getty Museum. She said, “Mr.  L, those TIE experiences have popped up useful at some of the most unanticipated times and places. I once had to climb a ladder in heels to make some decisions about an air conditioner! TIE helped me do it. And you know what? The Getty has a shop just like yours. . . . THEY BREAK THINGS!”

Stephan became a jet pilot for Google, taking pictures for your maps. Andrew, following a major in Physics at Andrews University, now researches “Metallic Glass” at CALTECH. Student missionaries, Kurt and Jon, used their TIE construction skills to improve the habitability of their termite-ridden “house,” refurbish their island school building, and make improvements to the local Adventist church on a tiny island in the Pacific forty miles by ocean from their nearest principal.

Seeking relief from a sore shoulder, I entered the orthopaedic resident’s exam room and was surprised to find a former TIE student. His first words were, “Hey, Mr. L! How’s the TIE program going? I use what I learned in TIE every day right here in this exam room.” Other TIE students have gone on to be preachers, beloved academy teachers, architects, digital broadcast journalists, campus pastors, history professors, firemen, computer programmers, marines, prosecuting attorneys, managers of their famous dad’s motorsports business, and one student gets paid to play Pomp and Circumstance each year at LLA graduation services.

Because of its notable successes, the TIE program is a highlighted component in the Academy’s recruitment tool bag. Each year, one or two interviewing candidates mention that the TIE program was what attracted them to Loma Linda Academy. A conference associate educational superintendent reported an educational consultant made reference to Loma Linda Academy’s TIE program during a presentation to the Los Angeles Unified School District. It is also my opinion that the TIE program’s success is responsible for bringing me a certain level of professional opportunity and recognition2 which in my estimation would not have otherwise occurred and which I feel actually is undeserved. The TIE program concept carries its own weight; I merely present a little theory and keep an eye on motors that have blades attached to them when they are activated.

Today, the Loma Linda Academy TIE program continues under the leadership of teacher Gene Oswald who has incorporated contemporary components of the ever-popular STEM movement. One of many significant contributions Gene has added to the program is the implementation of a STEM-based community wide “Makers Fair.”

The experiences and successes of Loma Linda Academy’s TIE program demonstrate that many Adventist students and parents are interested in exposure to technical-based curriculum. They are also willing to go to extra lengths to participate in such programs if opportunity is made available. Whereas Loma Linda Academy has a large enough school census to possess a sufficient proportion of students to support such a program, many Adventist schools across the North American Division lack such enrollment numbers. Nevertheless, just as interested students and parents existed at Loma Linda, these technically-oriented students and parents exist in these smaller schools also, just in too few numbers at those schools to justify the commitment of teachers and resources to provide the curriculum.  

If these scattered students were given the opportunity to gather from their disparate locations at one appropriate site location, sufficient staff and resources would be justified to provided such a technical/academic educational experience. Instead of a purely academic exposure, these parents and students could benefit from a program like LLA’s TIE. My initial calculations indicate a mere 3.2 incoming freshmen, each year from each state, would provide sufficient enrollment to populate such a school. Many benefits to the church at large would also result from such an educational opportunity.

Innovation is a word mumbled by parents, pastors, and principals when ruminating over the future destiny of Adventist schools. Loma Linda Academy’s TIE program is an innovation with a successful track record.

 

Notes & References:

1. Technology Education: contemporary terminology adopted by the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association to reference curriculum whose origins lie in Industrial Arts/Industrial Education.

2. Participant in California State University Summer Manufacturing Workshops, 1988-1990; Zapara Excellence in Education Award, 1991; Alma McKibbin Study Grant, 1992; NASA Summer Teachers Workshop in Aeronautics, Edwards Air Force Base, Lancaster California, 1997; Alumni Awards Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award, 2011; City of Loma Linda Teacher of the Year, 2012; International Technology and Engineering Educators Association Convention presentations, 1998, 2002, 2012; NAD Teacher’s Convention presentation, 2013.

 

Jay Linthicum taught Technology/Industrial Education in Adventist academies in Nebraska and California for 41 years. Newly retired, he has followed his granddaughters to a place of which he had not heard of previously – northern Idaho.

Image: SpectrumMagazine.org

 

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