Meet Laura VanWaardhuizen (PLSP-ECMC Foundation fellow)

Meet Laura VanWaardhuizen, program coordinator & assistant teaching professor, family and consumer sciences education & studies, at Iowa State University. VanWaardhuizen’s interview appears as part of a spotlight series on 2020–21 fellows in the Postsecondary Leadership Success Program at ACTE – Sponsored by ECMC Foundation.

What leadership skills do you hope to develop as part of the Postsecond­ary Leadership Success Program at ACTE – Sponsored by ECMC Foundation?

I’m a very passionate, though probably geeky, individual. And I am geeked out about CTE! What I hope I gain out of the fellowship is an ability to prioritize and channel that passion into worthwhile projects. It’s easy to feel that we must do all things and be all things, but, if we want to be career educators, it is important to focus our efforts on things with the potential for long-term impact.

How do you anticipate your participation in the program will better equip you to support career and technical edu­cation (CTE) students, particularly underserved groups, toward career success?

Right now, my passion project is expanding the field of family and consumer sciences (FCS) teachers. If you look at the people who teach FCS, it’s a pretty homogenous group. Family and consumer sciences are the people-centered sciences, “focused on the… art
of living and working well in our complex world.”

If that is our purpose, our educators need to better reflect the demographics of our students.

In your opinion, what are the most important elements of professional development for postsecondary leaders?

My recommendations differ based on background experience. For someone who comes to this profession through traditional routes (scholastic study in your field): Use every opportunity you can to get your hands dirty in the industry. Ask for advice, opportunities, mentorship.

My advice to someone who comes to education from industry is this: You are not less than. Your experience is invaluable to your students. For professional development, focus on finding new and improved instructional strategies. Find your own teaching style, what works for you, and explore flexible methods for teaching and assessing your pupils.

Learn more about the PLSP–ECMC Foundation.

The Postsecondary Leadership Success Program at ACTE – Sponsored by ECMC Foundation presents a yearlong professional development experience. The program is intended to develop the organizational leadership and management skills of postsecondary CTE professionals, with an emphasis on addressing the needs of underserved populations. Applications for the third cohort accepted Oct. 1–Dec. 15.