CTE in the Pandemic

Teaching in general has been a challenge in general, but this couldn’t be truer than for CTE teachers. As we all know, CTE courses should be hands on performance-based classes that many times require specialty software, equipment or tools that equivalate experiences cannot be provided virtually. Despite these challenges, I have been amazed at how teachers have come together from across Illinois to figure out the best possible solution to this challenge. As the solutions mentioned below aren’t ideal, neither is this situation for any educator but it goes to show just how amazing many of Illinois CTE teachers are.

To start with, the Illinois Design Educator’s Association (IDEA) teamed up with the Technology Educators Association of Illinois (TEAI) to quickly put together an evening round table (virtually of course) for technology education teachers who teach drafting and design courses. We had over 30 teachers from across the State participate in the discussions. Together, the educators shared ideas as well as what was and wasn’t working during our bi-monthly meetings. As a result of this, we are planning to offer virtual professional development this summer that will include continuing education credits for teachers and will focus on software that were found to be successful for our initial remote or distance learning experience.

I also appreciated hearing how FCS staff at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School collaborated on Facebook with other FCS educators to help figure out this problem. As many FCS teachers did across the nation from what it sounds like, we implemented “choice boards” in many of our FCS courses. This allowed students to have flexibility in their daily activities as they didn’t have to complete every assignment and had a choice at which assignment they completed each day. Students really appreciated having control of their learning during these difficult times. Our FCS department then shared what they were doing with our Technology & Engineering Education and Science departments where a few more teachers decided to implement.

Lastly, I’d like to recognize how our Information Technology (IT) departments stepped up quickly. In the matter of just days, we organized alternatives solutions to software-based classes. As we found over the weeks, some of it didn’t work as well as we would have liked, but nonetheless we tried new ideas and have ideas on how we can improve if this continues in the future.

Overall, in my 13 years in education, I feel like I’ve never seen so many educators come together so quickly to make significant changes to their daily instruction. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t ideal at times, but we did it. This will continue to be a challenge for many of our CTE courses and we will need to continue working together to develop solutions as they are needed. More than ever, it is important to continue promoting CTE at a local, state, and national level. Career preparation and readiness is not going away. If anything, we will be even more important in the coming months and years to address all the problems that the COVID 19 pandemic has caused!