As the perception of Career and Technology Education (CTE) changes across the country and communities and school districts see the importance of these programs to students, industry, and communities, the number of teachers required to staff our programs is growing too fast for traditional teacher education programs to keep up. In order to meet the demand for teachers, many states have adopted alternative teacher certification programs for those in industry that are interested in changing careers and becoming teachers. As a result, more and more CTE positions are being filled with individuals that are content experts who are motivated to become great educators, but lack the experience and pedagogical training to get there on their own.
At Hays Consolidated Independent School District (Hays CISD), we are fortunate to have a number of teachers who have left careers in the field to join us in providing quality education for our students. Over the years, we have hired professionals from Audio/Video Production, Automotive Technology, Biomedicine, Commercial Photography, Computer Science, Cosmetology, Criminal Justice, Culinary Arts, Engineering, Graphic Design and Health Science and have helped them to assimilate into the classroom. Our experience has shown that despite the training and assistance alternative certification programs provide, taking the knowledge that one possesses for the workplace and transferring that knowledge to a classroom full of high school students is a considerable challenge. We began to look at ways we could assist teachers in that transition through existing programs in our district and had some success using Mentor Teachers, but realized we were asking those teachers to take time away from their own classroom preparation which wasn’t fair to them or their students.
In our quest to find a solution, we looked to the core courses to see what they were doing to provide support to their teachers. Our district, like many others throughout the country, utilized Instructional Coaches for each of the core subject areas, but not for any of the elective areas. For those of you not familiar with instructional coaches, I will use the words of Jim Knight, the foremost expert on the role of instructional coaches, to help you understand the position. According to Knight,
Instructional coaches partner with teachers to help them improve teaching and learning so students are more successful. To do this, ICs collaborate with teachers to get a clear picture of current reality, identify goals, pick teaching strategies to meet the goals, monitor progress, and problem solve until the goals are met. We define instructional coaching as follows: “Instructional coaches partner with teachers to analyze current reality, set goals, identify and explain teaching strategies to hit the goals, and provide support until the goals are met.”
After discussion with our district Curriculum and Instruction leaders, we decided that we would add a CTE District Instructional Coach position beginning with in the 2017-18 academic year. The person in this position is responsible for working with Hays CISD’s fifty plus CTE teachers housed on our two high school campuses to assist them in improving their pedagogical approach. This year, our Instructional Coach has developed training that was incorporated into our Professional Development days, has completed multiple classroom observations for each of our teachers and provided feedback to assist the teachers, has initiated mentoring sessions for all teachers new to Hays CISD, and has assisted numerous teachers on project and lesson plan ideas and implementation. Many of our teachers have been outspoken about how beneficial it is for them to have someone willing to help them as they work on creating lessons that will engage their students in the activity and lead them to deeper, more critical thinking as they study the material. So, as you look for ways to help those in your district that may be new to teaching, or to support those who are experienced but are motivated to keep improving, I would encourage you to consider the addition of an Instructional Coach to your CTE department.
Suzi Mitchell, Hays CISD CTE Director, and Rick Bough, Hays CISD CTE Instructional Coach