My Why: How CTE Can Transform Education

My Why: How CTE Can Transform Education

I was slightly too old to enroll in what is called CTE today, and being from a family that valued college readiness over a vocation, those courses weren’t even on the menu. I first became acquainted with CTE through the work of a man named Tim Hood while I was in college for radio, television, and film. Radio time was pretty easy to attain, as one simply had to volunteer to take rock, jazz, or classical music shifts. But, if you had the chance to help in a televised sports broadcast, most events were already contractually set up. Maybe you could hold cables, but camera, talent, and production work was left to professionals. I learned that a neighboring high school started an audio-video club and then added classes on media technology. Once or twice a week, the school would produce football, basketball, or baseball games on cable access television. The production team would always need extra support as the show would go on, whether there were two cameras, on-air talent, or not.

So, as a local college kid, I started showing up to practice a set of career skills with a high school teacher and his students. Tim Hood was first a certified math teacher in a large urban high school before he started an A/V club for his students by begging and borrowing slightly dated equipment from professionals in order to give high school students’ hands-on opportunities. He only had the A/V club for a couple of years before the first CTE courses and standards were developed. Then, Tim could teach students in a class period and develop a media technology curriculum. At first, Tim’s easygoing nature drew students without a social group to the class. These were students at risk of dropping out. In the club, these students were not only connected to a purpose, they were now at the forefront of student events either with a camera or a microphone. They were on the field of football games and at the front of the auditorium during school announcements. As their visibility grew, so did their interest across social circles and backgrounds. They were connected but also held accountable to a team. Tim’s class began to compete at activities and contests through organizations like VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America), now SkillsUSA. When the class started winning district, state, and even national contests, the community learned of the students’ skills and started donating to the program and using it for production work. What’s more, the judges of the competitions were hiring the students because of their professional skills and teachability.

After graduation and work in the radio/TV industry for half a decade at all hours of the night and traveling continuously, I found out that a school in my hometown had an opening to teach media technology. More than that, I saw a once-proud school looking for something to connect the community. I knew the roadmap, as I was up close and personal with the passionate work that Tim Hood delivered. However, what I was pleased to discover was the individualized rewards that came from students’ discovery of lifelong learning. It wasn’t enough to just focus on media production, as many of these students came with IEPs, 504 plans, language-acquisition plans, or economic hardships. We needed to intervene on students’ strengths and needs, as CTE may be the only class that a student didn’t skip that day. We started focusing on differentiated pacing of core skills and CTE concurrently to suit each student. That meant that some were flying ahead toward certification in Final Cut Pro, or by using Adobe Photoshop, they are rescaling images to support what they need to work on in geometry class.

I moved into administration to make these types of connections to students on a broader scale. I wanted to help students find and meet nursing goals, architecture goals, and more. Subsequently, we needed to deliver a greater array of elective courses. The byproduct was a greater range of work-based learning (WBL) opportunities, interdisciplinary connections, and certifications.

Many of these students will not stay in the career they studied in high school and postsecondary education, but the life, employability, and learning skills will translate to new endeavors which is why I chose to continue to invest in sharing the value that Career and Technical Education can have for students of all ages.

Are you interested in learning more about how Edmentum can support developing a high-quality CTE program? Check out our online course library that includes over 160 semesters of CTE courses across all 16 nationally recognized Career Clusters®.