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New president promotes technical school's value

8/19/2012

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Eric Burks said he hadn't given much thought about technical education when he visited Beloit during his childhood days.

"I knew they built a house," he said of the carpentry program at NCK Tech in Beloit. "And I knew my dad went there for electronics (classes) years ago. I never even considered it as an option."

Now, Burks is president of the school that just last week shortened its name to NCK Tech.

Burks grew up in Randall, north of Beloit in Jewell County, but chose to get his post-secondary education at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

Even when he returned to familiar territory and began teaching at Jewell High School several years ago, Burks said he never thought about getting into administration.

Then, one day a tornado warning during a school day changed all that.

"There were no administrators at the school at the time, and someone had to step up and react," he said. "Someone needed to be in charge and help out with decisions, and people looked to me for leadership."

Burks said that experience made him realize that maybe administration was his calling after all.

He took over as principal at Jewell in 2008. And when he got the job as dean of instruction at NCK Tech the next year, Burks said he knew he was destined to be in administration "if the opportunity ever presented itself."

And now, he talks daily about the benefits of technical education.

"People used to think, 'That's a great option for my neighbor's kid, but not mine,' " Burks said, pointing out numerous advantages of technical education, first and foremost a job placement guarantee after a one- or two-year college career.

"I was a career and technical education instructor in high school," Burks said. "I taught business and computer classes, and I saw the value to having those skills. Even if you don't get a career in those, they are valuable in any career."