ECISD vet tech students learning on the job

·7 min read

Jan. 23—Students in Mary Cass' veterinary technician class learn everything it takes to be a veterinarian, including participating in internships at clinics.

Cass, an agriculture science teacher, said there are about 15 students in the program and they need to be juniors or seniors. Classes are held at the Ector County ISD Ag Farm.

Cass has been with the district for three years and was at Odessa High School before coming out to the farm. Along with vet tech, she teaches practicum of animal science, livestock production, small animal management and equine science.

For the vet tech portion, students learn essentially everything it takes to be a veterinarian.

"They learn restraints in handling. They learn diseases. They learn all kinds of things so that they are better prepared to be a vet," Cass said.

She said she did an internship similar to what her students are doing now in high school.

"I was shadowing a vet and I learned quickly that it was not for me. It definitely was not what I thought it was and I finished out my senior year of high school and then I decided that I wanted to teach," Cass said.

She said the students go through so much schooling and time.

"You don't want to get all the way through all that and then realize that you don't want to do it, or you don't like it. So giving them a taste in high school, seeing if they like something lets them know before they take all these college classes, the time, the money, the effort, and then get down the road and don't like it," Cass said.

The farm is a full working farm, she said, with lambs, goats, pigs, chickens, horses and donkeys, but no cows or bunnies.

"We've got barn cats around here. We've got a farm dog. We've got a little bit of everything ...," Cass said.

Many of the students show animals and they take care of the different animals at the farm. The caretakers are Carlos Salcido and Angela Herrington.

"They definitely helped keep this place running and without them we would not be where we're at," she said.

A native of Paris, Texas, Cass earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural services and development with a teacher certification.

She was a little hesitant about moving to the Ag Farm from Odessa High because it's so much different from the classes she was teaching there.

"I deeply love the freshmen and (coming) out here with seniors and the vet tech program ... there's just so much to the vet tech program. I was a little overwhelmed, but I ... got the hang of it and we're doing great things," Cass said.

The next step after these classes would be taking college classes and from there they can take the level II CVA (Certified Veterinary Assistant) and just keep working their way up through school.

If they want to become veterinarians, the closest schools would be Texas Tech University, which recently opened a vet school, and Texas A&M University.

"They can do undergraduate classes at any college they choose and then they can transfer into Tech, or they can transfer into A&M and then take classes from there," Cass said.

The students take part in internships as part of the course and Cass said she has youngsters at almost every vet clinic in Odessa and some in Midland.

"I couldn't have done it without the vets; definitely a huge shout out to them for taking my kids, working with the kids to begin with," Cass said.

She has placed three or four students with each veterinarian and they are logging three or four hours a day.

Veterinarians have generally given Cass good feedback about the students.

"I have them fill out an evaluation form every six weeks and so that way I can gauge where my kids are. The vets can gauge where they're at, and then we can sit down. If there's any behavioral issues, or just any issues in general I like to get that corrected and nipped in the bud here before they carry it on into the vet's offices," Cass said.

McKenna Jessup, a 17-year-old senior at Odessa High School, loves animals.

"I've always kind of wanted to go into the medical field because at first I was a sports trainer through the school, helping the football players, soccer players; all that. I love helping people, but I love animals more," Jessup said.

She was talking to one of her teachers and they suggested the vet tech program.

"I got into it, and I love it. I've learned so much," Jessup said.

She added that she interns with Dr. Steve Wade at Eighth Street Animal Hospital.

"He's amazing. He ... always includes us and teaches us and everything like that. I just like animals (and) want to help animals," Jessup said.

She said she may want to become a veterinarian, or she may just go for being a vet tech because they do a lot of the same things as veterinarians.

Evan Espinoza, a 17-year-old senior at Permian High School, said he's always had a passion for animals. He is interning at West Texas Emergency Veterinary Clinic in Odessa.

"I've been showing pigs for four years. And just being out here giving them shots, raising them, ended up spending a lot of time with them and it just made me want to help out animals as best as I could. I've always wanted a career with animals. I wanted to be a marine biologist before this, but then I found FFA and agriculture in this program and it ... helped me to find what I wanted to do in life. The people with the clinic, they're amazing. They're always helping me learn and I'm always willing to help and willing to learn. I think that's one of the reasons why I want to become a veterinarian," Espinoza said.

He said they try their best to help the animals as much as they can.

"It's not always easy, but at the end of the day, I'm the person that's willing to help them and do whatever I need to do," Espinoza said.

He added that it's gratifying when the animal is returned to its family.

Espinoza said he'd like to become a veterinarian.

"... It's a long time to go to school, but I'm willing to put in the work and dedicate myself to become a full veterinarian," he said.

Arianna Barron, an 18-year-old senior at PHS, grew up on a ranch around animals. When she got older, she heard about the vet tech program and started showing rabbits and goats and doing well.

"So far, it's amazing. It's such an experience. I love it. I have learned a lot," Barron said.

She added that she now understands why animals have had ailments she's seen.

"... I like it a lot and, hopefully, I can become a tech pretty soon when I go to school for it. I'm thinking about going for a veterinarian, but it is a long road but I'm going to still try my best to see where life takes me," Barron said.

She is currently interning at Angel Veterinary Clinic in Odessa and enjoys it very much.

"It's like so comforting. I love all the people there; definitely learning a lot more than I honestly expected. We help out, I would say quite a bit" and they learn a lot every day, Barron said.

Jaime Franco, a 17-year-old senior at OHS, also wanted to get into the vet tech program because he's always liked animals.

He also wanted to see what a career as a vet would be like. Franco said the program has been fun and he's learned a lot from his internship at Angel Veterinary Clinic.

"I grew up around horses and livestock, so I've been around them my whole entire life. I just thought it would be interesting becoming a vet ...," Franco said.