Challenging the Status Quo: Innovation in CTE

In my many years as a teacher of technology in the New York City public high school system, I’ve found that my drive to not follow the status quo—whether it’s Alexander Bell
integrating something new into my classes each school year or finding fresh ways to advocate for my program—has been a constant underlying factor to my success as a CTE instructor. Not only that, “innovating” has truly made – and continues to make—my teaching career vastly engaging, tremendously satisfying, and even therapeutic in the midst of the hard-lined politics that surround the business of education.

Despite the challenges we face as teachers, I thrive on the success stories of my students. I’ve lost count of how many of my former students have created rewarding careers and comfortable lifestyles because of the technology skills they directly acquired and still utilize from their tenure in my CTE classroom.

“Innovation” to me has been integral to two main areas of my role as an instructor:

  1. Developing learning components that are unique to my class
  2. Finding new opportunities to partner and expand my program’s reach

I’ve provided detailed strategies that have helped me succeed in these areas in the two posts linked above.

One of my keys to success is that I love my discipline. Passion and a willingness to innovate are crucial for a great program, but more fundamental and equally as important is taking the time to stay on top of the changes in my field. I’ve found it critical to stay current with my skillset and the state of CTE nationally, and I’ve done this by attending professional development conferences, local seminars and online webinars to stay up to date on the newest trends.

If you love your discipline, know your discipline, and are willing to try new things, then you can be fearless in making a difference every day in those lives that sit before you in your classroom!




Alexbell3 (1)


Alexander C. Bell

2015 ACTE Region I Teacher of the Year

Teacher, Thomas A. Edison CTE High School

Jamaica, New York



2 replies
  1. Dr. Robert Marraccino
    Dr. Robert Marraccino says:

    Thanks Alex, we can all use your thoughtful insights. I endorse your, often repeated, motivational phrase: “Truth to Power” to ignite the light of student achievement in CTE.
    I want to underscore some of your suggestions that worked for me by describing the ways that students can take ownership of the program in partnership with the instructor.
    1)Creating a professional atmosphere of accountability with technical notebooks and resume portfolios has worked for us; appropriate work attire (like laboratory coats for CTE Medical Laboratory program) distinguishes and binds the community of students together, and surrounding your students with authentic workplace technology in a planned dedicated space is critical.
    2) Reaching out to Chambers of Commerce, Economic Councils, and major employees has lead to phenomenal opportunities , and is also a great idea as you suggest. For example, I started a career fair without colleges but with the inclusion of businesses. Our business partners offer authentic career advice, not programming information for courses, and CTE students offer demonstrations directly to the local business community to build awareness of CTE quality workers.
    3) Creating regularly scheduled symposiums at local businesses creates that initial contact that opens career pathways to students rather than jobs. For our local CTE Medical Laboratory Program, I worked with the Vice President of a local hospital to create exposure to the dynamic interactions which define health care with the hope of sparking interest in the many careers that support the individual Departments at the hospital. Students too often focus on the point-of service careers (like, doctor, nurse, pharmacist)and spend most of their college years too focused on a job with a limited availability. Most end up in great debt, and not employed in that dream job. Rather with more exposure, students can envisage a more productive pathway that matches their skills, academic abilities and true aspirations.. …and something that none of us do ….start a Middle School Explorers program with your high school students.
    Moreover, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce helped our local Chamber get involved with the mentoring program, originating from the University of Rochester which I fully endorse.
    Best of luck in the spreading of your most valued advice and experience!

  2. Daniel Solomon
    Daniel Solomon says:

    Thanks to dedicated professionals such as you both are, the stigma of career education is being eliminated and CTE is either at or coming to the forefront of many school districts around the country. CTE provides the needed “bridge” to both the academic arena and the workforce beyond. Your administration thanks you, your community thanks you and most importantly, your students thank you.


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