ELEANOR, W.Va. -- When Principal Mike Erwin opens the doors to classrooms at the Putnam Career and Technical Center that lead to auto and wood shops and dentist's offices, he feels proud.
He claims that he doesn't mean to brag about the school he once attended as a student, but he's always known it was a special place - one that offers an array of opportunities and a set of skills hard to find elsewhere.
"I use them every day," he said of the skills he learned as a student.
This year, others noticed the school's success, too.
The state Department of Education named the school the best career and technical facility in the state.
"Kids leave here with the skills to hold positions that need filled," Erwin said, noting how that night, employees at several local businesses were scheduled to meet with educators at the school.
"They provide guidance about the direction we need to move as a school," he said.
Actually, officials say all of Putnam County schools are listening to businesses and have started an initiative to make students ready to enter the workforce after graduating.
This year, Putnam teachers are emphasizing work ethic and communication skills with their students, and those subjects are even counting toward their grades. School board members also recently announced a plan to apply for an innovation zone grant to hire someone to work at the county high schools and help students explore career possibilities outside of college.
"The county is making a big push to determine individual needs," Erwin said.
He attributes the career and technical school's success to two things: the staff and the students.
"Our teachers here are right out of the industry," Erwin said. "We're continuously improving and evaluating our teaching strategies."
A majority of teachers at the school have completed the first step in becoming nationally board certified.