Plano ISD Teachers Become Externs for Local Companies

The Plano Mayor's Summer Internship Program is piloting a new paid externship program for teachers to work alongside student interns at top Plano companies.

Michael Alves [Photo: Chase Mardis] externs

While most teachers unwind from the bustling school year during the summer, Plano ISD teachers are utilizing their time out of the classroom in a new type of professional development.

The Plano Mayor’s Summer Internship Program, sponsored by Capital One, is piloting a new paid externship program for teachers to work alongside student interns for two to three weeks at top Plano companies.

In an effort to enhance their abilities to connect classroom learning to future career pursuits for students, teachers are working collaboratively with industry professionals to bring new teaching techniques to the classroom.


Eight companies with offices in Plano are hosting 11 teacher externs to further cultivate a future workforce. Companies participating include Alliance Data, My Possibilities, McAfee, Plano Chamber of Commerce, Capital One, NTT Data, Callier Center for Communication Disorders, and Regal Research & Manufacturing Co.

Ashley Helms, PISD director of professional learning and head of the externship program, sees this as a way for companies to not only invest in the teachers, but also more than 55,000 Plano students. 

“Any time teachers and students can learn together is so powerful.”

“We have elementary teachers, we have middle school teachers and high school teachers. We have content area and elective teachers that are working on projects that may not have anything to do with the content they teach, but they’re focusing on those future-ready skills: collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication,” Helms said. 

Teachers in the program not only work with industry professionals, but also with 116 Plano area high school students who are seeking similar learning experiences.

“Any time teachers and students can learn together is so powerful,” Helms said.


Regal Research & Manufacturing Co. is hosting a trio of participants — two student interns and one teacher extern. Plano East upcoming junior intern Hunter Helms, who is the son of Ashley Helms, agreed with Vines High School extern Michael Alves about the skill that goes into welding. During Alves own experience using welding equipment at Regal, perfecting his craft was not an easy task.  

“He burned a hole through the metal,” Hunter said.

“I shocked myself twice, too,” Alves said.

Hunter Helms

Alves said he was fortunate to even have the opportunity to operate the laser welding robot. Helms is too young to operate the machinery, but the two have worked in many different areas of the company, advising each other of what to expect in each one. 

“I’ve done a lot of things that I never thought I’d do,” Alves said.

Regal Research is a contract manufacturer that focuses on B2B transactions. Clients, ranging from NASA to Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter, use Regal to build products for their companies. Regal Research has a multitude of machinery to specialize in complex technologies and assemblies. 

Alves was interested in the program once he saw that Regal Research was a participant. As a former English teacher, Alves readily accepted the opportunity to teach engineering a couple of years ago, but didn’t have an extensive knowledge of the subject. 

Student intern Hunter Helms and teacher extern Michael Alves talk with a Regal Research employee.

“I learned how to do that course, but I don’t know what it’s like to be an engineer at all,” Alves said. 

“It’s nice to work with somebody who has such a passion for what they do.”


Through his externship, Alves has collaborated with Regal employees to discover what they look for in future applicants to relay to his students. He’s been given example parts and drawings to take back to the classroom to use as demonstration tools.

Alves said the best part of working at Regal is witnessing each craftsmen’s art and learning from such talented individuals.

“It’s nice to work with somebody who has such a passion for what they do,” Alves said.


Through the externship program, PISD hopes to have a broader reach than just the participants in the program.

“We wanted to make sure our externs both had the opportunity to learn, but that it’s not limited to just the externs that get to participate,” Ashley Helms said.

Student intern Abihishek Sridhar

Student intern Abihishek Sridhar

Once the externships are over, teachers will share their experiences with fellow teachers that were not in the program and work to integrate new teaching techniques across all Plano campuses.

“We’re going to talk about the classroom strategies that we can use in K-12 education to get our students ready to participate in the structures our externs are observing this summer,” Ashley Helms said, “It’s not just professional learning for the 11 that we have, but it will translate [into] professional learning for our whole district.”

The district believes that the teacher extern’s learning experiences are crucial to discovering new, engaging ways to prepare students for their futures. 


Photos by Chase Mardis.

Student intern Abihishek Sridhar works with Regal Research machinery.

Abihishek Sridhar

Abihishek Sridhar

Abihishek Sridhar

HR Manager for Regal Research David Link

Abihishek Sridhar

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