Savannah River Remediation Brings Teachers into SRS Training Classrooms

AIKEN, S.C. (May 6, 2019) – Some of the Savannah River Site’s (SRS) newest training instructors are former teachers from the local school system.

Three state-licensed teachers were hired to support the influx of new production operators — more than 160 over the last year — going through Savannah River Remediation’s (SRR) operator fundamentals training program. SRR is the SRS liquid waste contractor.

Erin Smith, Rachel Williams, and Carissa Smith are serving in familiar roles as SRR trainers with jobs akin to those of a homeroom teacher. These trainers have primary responsibility for all aspects of facilitating the production operators’ fundamentals training. Their duties include classroom management, such as trainee attendance accounting, assistance with developing classroom materials, grading quizzes and exams, and proctoring exams.

Erin Smith taught math and science for 17 years at two area middle schools before joining SRR.

“One similarity between being a teacher in school and a trainer at SRR is the end goal of learning,” she said. “In both situations, we have objectives, and it is my job to facilitate the learning to the students in school and the operators at SRR. In both situations I want to ensure that all leave with the proper understanding of these objectives to go on to the next step in the process. For the operators at SRR, that next step is systems training.”
Williams taught for four years at area elementary schools. In many ways, her job as a school teacher and as an SRR trainer are similar.

“We develop lessons based on learning objectives and teach the students or trainees what they need to know to be successful in their jobs,” Williams said. “Also, as a teacher or trainer, we incorporate the latest technology in as many lessons as possible.”
Carissa Smith was a teacher at North Augusta High School for six years. To her, the biggest difference from teaching in a public school classroom and at SRR is the focus on nuclear safety culture.

“Preserving and maintaining the nuclear safety culture established at SRR is a top goal in our lessons,” she said. “At every phase of the instructional design process, we factor in safety and how our actions can affect the outcome of the people and world around us.”

Patricia Allen, director of SRR’s environmental safety, health, and quality assurance, and contractor assurance, is committed to bringing new people and new technology into the learning environment.

“Adding former, experienced teachers to the training team has been beneficial for the operator fundamentals training program, and we are seeing positive results,” Allen said. “We have been able to implement new classroom practices and approaches thanks to the invaluable strategic insight our new employees bring. Since many of our production operator trainees have not been in a classroom environment for several years, the relevant experience that these instructors provide is tremendous.”