Growing a supportive community around my programs has been essential to ensuring their success. Here are some examples of connections I’ve made in and outside my school that have improved opportunities for my students:
- Local Businesses: Growing partnerships with local businesses is hard work, but I believe well-worth the extra effort. As a result of the connections I’ve made, many of my students have gone on to internships in their field of study. I particularly enjoy hearing about how great my students have been as interns when I open my inbox and receive rave reviews from these companies I’ve partnered with for several years.
- Local Banks: A few years ago, I began working with the local Municipal Credit Unions’ (MCU) Business Development Relations department. They host a “youth empowerment event” annually that incorporates professional lawyers, judges, celebrities and local leaders who once walked the tough streets of those many students in the audience. I attend this event every year with 25-50 students who depart the event amazed at how much they can use the event discussions to advance their CTE careers. Additionally (and for free), MCU has had one of their professionals come to my school for the past four years to present “Financially Fit,” an appealing and enlightening presentation on credit awareness for students with a specific focus on the credit pitfalls when entering college.
- The School Administration: Your school administrators can be strong allies in bringing engaging CTE programs outside your curriculum into your house of education. While I was at ACTE’s CareerTech VISION in Las Vegas several years ago, I was able to connect my principal with representatives from the National Technical Honor Society (NTHS) and proposed starting a chapter at our school. Unlike the National Honor Society, this student-led organization specifically benefits and honors the academic and technical accomplishments of CTE students. My principal agreed, and five years later many of our students have won the NTHS Jon H. Poteat scholarship to help ease the burden of college costs. Additionally, via consultation and approval from the school principal, the students of the NTHS organization and I have put together several high school fair events where CTE student presenters of varying disciplines share their learned experiences with middle school students and their parents on each event date.
- The Local Teacher’s Union: I am very happy that I made the conscious choice to not only sign on to be a union member many years ago, but also to become a steadfast advocate, representative and elected delegate. You truly learn so much about the business of education and advocating for yourself, your fellow staff members and of course, your students. I have met and learned from members of the American Federation of Teachers, New York State United Teachers, and United Federation of Teachers over the years. Because of these affiliations, my footprint far extends the classroom. UFT hosts various events that directly advance CTE, i.e. the annual UFT Spring conference, which includes CTE exhibits—all NYC CTE schools are welcomed to present their specialized programs to hundreds of citywide visitors. If, feasible, your participation in union activity absolutely gives you a greater ability to advance your CTE agenda to help your students.
Finally, I always encourage my students to consider giving back to the field by considering a future in education. I’m proud to say our school has a record of drawing our alumni back through our doors, including two former students of mine who are teachers and another who is now our school principal. Across several generations, our school has become a strong community with many stories of young lives changed, enhanced and empowered.
Alexander C. Bell
2015 ACTE Region I Teacher of the Year
Teacher, Thomas A. Edison CTE High School
Jamaica, New York