On February 5, 2018, I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Connie Strebe as she will be serving as my Mentor during the 2018 ACTE Fellowship program. Connie currently serves as the Satellite Director for the Tolles Technology Center in Plain City, Ohio. 22 CTE programs exist onsite at Tolles, but Connie specifically oversees 16 CTE teachers that work at several off-campus high schools. Nearly 675 students attend the main campus and approximately 1,000 students take CTE classes at satellite high schools. Connie told me that programs range from Medical Assisting to Pre-Engineering. Having only been involved with CTE for 8 years, Connie has an impressive resume!
This year marks Connie’s 28th year in education. Originally, Connie started as an English & French Teacher and then went on to finish her Spanish credentials from The Ohio State University. Connie continued on to earn a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Assessment from Ashland University, where she also earned an Administrative Endorsement in Grades 4-9 and 5-12.
In 2010, Connie joined ACTE and the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators. That year, Connie took a job at Tolles and has learned so much about the field of CTE! Connie finds it personally rewarding to see CTE teachers “working their magic” from their business & industry backgrounds. For example, Connie will often observe teachers showing students “what really matters” in industry. She loves a time early in her CTE career when she first saw a student “weld a line” as the instructor had done such a nice job inspiring the student. It was moments like this that affirmed her decision to begin a CTE administrative career! When asked about a frustrating topic in her profession, Connie mentions the debate of STEM education versus CTE. Basically, Connie sees that we are “competing against the same kids.” Going back to one of her favorite examples, Connie told me that “you can’t replicate a welding lab” in a STEM setting.
The ACTE Fellows Class of 2012 included Connie. One of her most enjoyable pieces of the program included the professional diversity of the fellows. Connie tells me that it was a strong class and she keeps in touch with many of them today. For example, she met a professor from the University of Texas and has become close friends. Networking was her favorite part of the program along with the National Policy Seminar experience.
Today, Connie says the field of CTE has come a long way. Occasionally, she’ll face the challenges of the traditional vocational education stereotype with today’s CTE field. However, she curbs that with discussions about her “hi-tech, hi-demand” CTE programs at Tolles. Connie regularly stays up to date with industry by attending advisory meetings with a goal of “challenging kids to go outside of the box” with their thinking.
In my conversation with Connie, I quickly learned about her CTE passion for students. She is a difference-maker who genuinely cares about students and staff. Connie also understands the balance that you must take between your professional and personal life. I can tell that Connie is a great leader and I’m fortunate to have her as my mentor!