Alaska ACTE Hosts Virtual Professional Development Conference

Oct. 9 and 10, 2020 – Zoom

Virtual learning: Two words invoking major headaches for educators across the country. Despite the challenges of online learning, especially for Career and Technical Education (CTE), benefits are emerging! One such benefit is the expanded access to professional development, which is why Alaska ACTE decided to host its annual professional development conference virtually this year! Continuing to increase student access and equity in CTE is too important and we could not cancel the one opportunity many have to learn from the best in our state.

The 2020 Alaska ACTE Professional Development Conference will take place October 9 and 10. Going online means educators from across Alaska have access to this important continuing education from the safety of their home or school. No travel and no time away from the classroom! All live sessions will be recorded, allowing participants the opportunity to re-watch sessions or view sessions later if they missed one.

This year’s keynote speaker is Ricardo Romanillos, Ed.D., the senior director of programs with the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity. Romanillos will address equity, an extremely timely topic for all educators navigating the challenges of teaching during a worldwide pandemic. The public education system is meant to give every student access to the same educational opportunities. However, virtual learning has created an environment where many students only have access to what they have within their own homes and what parents can provide, creating a much less even playing field.

Romanillos is passionate about building structures and pathways that empower underserved communities. He has 14 years of experience in public education. He’s also a husband, second generation Latino and father of a medically dependent child. Romanillos keynote presentation will address equity’s challenges and give ideas on how to reach underserved communities in one of the most trying times educators, students and parents have faced.

The 2020 Alaska ACTE Professional Development Conference will take place October 9 and 10, 2020. Registration is $150 and includes membership to Alaska ACTE.

Register Online

Get Back to Basics: Strategies for Remote Learning in CTE

The transition to remote learning has left educators reeling. Being asked to design lessons, learn new technology, all while educating your own children and simultaneously trying to stay connected to family and friends in the middle of a pandemic is a herculean task. For career and technical education (CTE) teachers, the loss of balance is even further compounded. Why? Because CTE curriculum is often dependent on access to specialized tools and large machines

Imagine trying to teach woodworking without a lathe, or automotive without a lift. Imagine trying to teach biotechnology without a pipette, or HVAC without access to a soldering table.

It’s hard to picture — let alone do.

The truth is, CTE teachers can’t replicate the experience of hands-on learning in industry-specific lab spaces. What they can do is this:

Get back to basics.

CTE students learning in a remote environment can still learn something essential.

They can still learn how to learn.

After all, in the real world, CTE students must be able to acquire new knowledge. Today’s CTE students will soon be plumbers, electricians, cosmetologists, news anchors, entrepreneurs, engineers and doctors. They will all encounter novel situations that require deeper understanding and the independent discovery of answers.

The following strategies are designed to help CTE teachers develop curriculum, projects and lessons that guide students to take ownership of how they learn.

Think about the barriers.

  • Before you design a lesson plan or an activity, pause and think about what barriers students might experience as they try to learn in a remote environment. For example, some students only have one computer at home. Plan virtual “office hours” with tons of advanced notice; offer alternative options for students to connect with you.
  • If you haven’t heard from a student in a while, don’t ask why before considering the barriers. Ask yourself, “How can I design the lesson to better engage this student?” Connect with the student’s counselor for advice on outreach strategies.
  • You might also develop an assignment that asks students to think about barriers they and their peers may be experiencing. Encourage them to be as honest as possible. Waking up might be a barrier if they are constantly staying up later than they would normally due to a lack of school-based scheduling.
  • In remote learning environments many educators are leveraging video resources. If you choose to do so, make sure you don’t unintentionally create more barriers. Render all videos so they include closed captioning. That way students who are hearing impaired can access the learning. Captioning will also benefit students in noisy environments and enriches the learning experience for all.

Focus on the goal.

Student engagement may increase in remote learning environments if educators place a strong focus on making sure they are truly assessing the learning goal. For example, it might seem natural to ask students to write an essay response to the following question: Describe how you use a tool safely. But, if that is the only option you provide for students to demonstrate learning, what are you assessing really?

A student might know how to use the tool safely, but they might not be able to access a computer for writing, or they may not feel confident in their writing skills. What if you provided students with options for demonstrating their understanding? Can you still assess the learning goal of safety…

  • If the student makes a video explaining how they would use the tool?
  • If they draw a poster and submit a photograph of it?

Ask students to describe their learning goals. Consider creating an assignment that asks students to answer the following question: What are the three most important things you would like to learn with the remaining time in the school year? Use these answers to drive your unit development and activity planning.

Keep it relevant.

Students learn best when they feel the materials, tools, units or concepts are relevant or authentic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, keep it relevant by focusing on themes and tools students can access at home. Here’s an idea from Abraham Ewing, a CTE woodworking and manufacturing teacher at ConVal High School, in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Share your home projects.

Ewing sends daily videos to students. He teaches woodworking students about estimating wood costs, project design, drawing, planning and more as he builds raised beds in his own backyard. “When I call home to talk and share what students are learning about building raised beds, most of the parents seem really excited because they want their kids to build them too.”

Ewing recommends teachers stay flexible and be ready to improvise. “For my manufacturing class I bought my own 3D printer. I use it for visuals in my class videos and I showed them how local people were using 3D printers to make masks for hospitals.”

Consider asking students what projects they are working on at home. Could students create short how-to videos detailing the projects they are working on? If they can’t work on projects at home, ask students to draw or make a video of what project they would like to do at home. How can you use students’ interests to increase engagement and make the material relevant?

If I had to craft an essential question for this time in education, it might be:

How can CTE educators design remote learning so lessons are accessible, relevant and engaging?

While the answer will look different for each teacher, and will largely depend on support, student population and subject area, the common denominator will be the need to develop strategies that bring us all back to the heart of learning.


Before working at CAST, Amanda Bastoni, Ed.D., was an accomplished CTE director and teacher with 20+ years of experience in K-12 educational leadership, journalism and business. She has a proven record of achievement including being named the 2019 New Hampshire CTE Leader of the Year. During her time in education, Amanda has focused on increasing equity and access for special populations in CTE. Email her.

Teaching Strategy: The Carousel

“I wish all students would participate in the discussion.”

If that sounds familiar, you might want to try this strategy.

The ability to engage students with hands-on learning activities has long been a strong advantage for career and technical educators. However, the excitement that students experience in the lab often does not follow into classroom learning. When an instructor announces, “Let’s head back to the classroom.,” the response is an audible groan from students. Their bodies slump. The students find lab activities more engaging than classroom instruction.

To fix this problem, leverage lab attributes that create engagement to design classroom lesson plans. Consider how:

  • Labs allow every student to be actively engaged (equity)
  • Labs allow for students to openly discuss ideas as needed
  • Labs allow for freedom of movement
  • The teacher serves the role of facilitator
  • There is a de-emphasis on grades (learning for the sake of learning)

Equity, Engagement and Productive Talk

Emphasize the power of speaking and listening between students — what is known as productive talk. Productive talk is speaking that leads to learning. It happens during conversations in which students do most of the talking, while teachers guide them to listen to each other, explain their thinking, question and challenge each other’s ideas, and revise their own opinions based on input from others.

Productive Talk Improves Literacy

When people participate actively in conversation, their brains sync, mirroring and anticipating the neural activity of the others in the conversation (Stephens, Silbert and Hasson, 2010). Engaging in conversation as we learn, rather than simply listening to new information, helps make this neural activity more likely. As we learn, our brains forge and strengthen new pathways through which information can travel.

The Strategy in Action

How long will it take?

20-30 minutes, depending upon how long you want to debrief students.

When should I use the Carousel teaching strategy?

As a pre-assessment or a review game of a broad, multifaceted topic. When you need to get everyone involved, instead of hearing from the same few students each time.

What’s the gist?

An extended, active version of Think-Pair-Share, the Carousel gets everyone moving around the room to write and discuss various topics.

How It Works

  1. Post 4–5 large sheets of paper around the room, with plenty of space between them. On each paper, write a different question or statement that can elicit a broad range of responses.
  2. Divide your students into 4–5 teams, and give each team a different colored marker. Each group begins at one of the posted questions.
  3. Set a timer for two minutes (or another amount of time). Instruct students as follows: “When I say go, you will have two minutes as a group to write as many intelligent points as you can on your board. When I call time, every group will take their marker and rotate to the left, just like a carousel.”
  4. When groups rotate, instruct students to read through what the other group(s) wrote. If a student or group disagrees with something written previously, they are encouraged to draw a line through the statement and respond. After that, students begin to post their own additional thoughts.
  5. Continue rotating until all groups have responded to every question. Then facilitate a class discussion. All it takes to get great conversation going is a couple of lines drawn through comments of another color.

Students encouraged to respond and defend their own words are more invested than if they were just listening to the arguments of others. By responding first in a group with short, written statements, students feel safe to critique and defend their own ideas and are more likely to discuss their ideas aloud afterward.

Example Prompts from an Automotive Classroom

  1. List everything you can think of that relates to Geometry (This is to connect to prior knowledge and emphasize the role of geometry involved with upcoming content on suspension and brake systems.)
  2. List everything you can connect to the concept: alignment.
  3. List every detail you know about wheel bearings. (This serves as an excellent pre-assessment tool, to gauge student knowledge on this topic.)
  4. How many ways can we connect tires to brakes? (This serves to launch the new learning and gives the instructor time to use what students already have told him to lead the discussion.)

Final Thoughts

Productive talk will flourish when your classroom culture promotes learning for its own sake. Decades of research, from 1933 onward, have made it clear that grades are often problematic (Kohn, 2011). Reliance on grades reduces students’ interest in the material, the quality of their thinking, and their intrinsic drive to take intellectual risks (Kohn, 2011). Risk-averse learners “downshift” their brains into a kind of survival mode, looking for the right answer instead of seeking understanding.

People do better creative work and engage more readily in learning when they know that what they’re doing is relevant beyond a quantitative assessment. When we use external rewards to motivate others, we may unintentionally undermine their intrinsic motivation (Pink, 2011) and risk extinguishing their love of learning. Especially in career pathways work, it is important for students to internalize and embrace the intrinsic value of the learning that could become their lives’ work. A class discussion will be more dynamic and productive when students, freed from a preoccupation with their own achievement, can take interest in the topic itself.

Sandra Adams is a teacher and instructional coach with the Career Academy, Fort Wayne Community Schools. She co-wrote the ACTE-supported book But I’m NOT a Reading Teacher!: Literacy Strategies for Career and Technical Educators with Gwendolyn Leininger. Contact her to learn how you can implement the Carousel and other innovative teaching strategies in your CTE classroom.

For more from Adams, find her at ACTE’s CareerTech VISION next week where she will be on site to sign her book, But I’m NOT a Reading Teacher! Adams will also deliver two educational program sessions: “The Technology Integrated CTE Classroom: Embedding 7 Future Survival Skills” on Friday, Nov. 30 and “Creating Equitable Access to IT Courses” on Saturday, Dec. 1 during the STEM is CTE Symposium.

Kohn, A. (2011). The case against grades. Retrieved from
Pink, D.H. (2011). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.
Stephens, G.J., Silber, L.J. & Hasson, U. (2010). Speaker-listener neural coupling underlies successful communication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved from

iTeachU: Building Upon National and State CTE Teacher Recruitment Efforts

For more than two decades we have heard alarms, warning of the shortage of secondary teachers in content areas such as agriculture education and family and consumer sciences… In response, national initiatives emerged to address the need to recruit teachers into these career and technical education (CTE) fields. The National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) (2018) began the Tagged to Teach Ag initiative in 2009 and turned a spotlight on the need to recruit and retain professionals in that space.

A Kansas-based campaign coined “Say Yes to FCS” was adopted in 2014 by the National Association of State Administrators of Family and Consumer Sciences (NASAFACS) (Randel & Spavone, 2016). The American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) hosts online resources to fill the FCS teacher pipeline. These campaigns and others have heightened an awareness of the need for teachers in these fields of CTE.

Statewide CTE Teacher Recruitment Efforts

Capitalizing on the buzz created by the national Tagged to Teach Ag and Say Yes to FCS campaigns, statewide recruitment efforts are underway to recruit the next generation of CTE teachers in South Dakota.

Each year, South Dakota FFA members who plan to attend South Dakota State University (SDSU) to major in agricultural education are invited to participate in the event, which mirrors an athletic signing. The student, their agriculture teacher and SDSU faculty sit at a table and sign a framed letter of intent to teach agriculture.

South Dakota has undertaken additional statewide efforts to recruit family and consumer sciences teachers… In addition to the traditional means of recruiting, SDSU implemented iTeachU in 2011. The one-day, annual event on campus is a joint effort between the agricultural education and FCSE faculty in the department of teaching, learning and leadership, and introduces participants to a career in teaching while simultaneously providing a glimpse into college life.

Associated faculty take on the logistical roles of organizing and planning the iTeachU program, while current SDSU students facilitate the event. This joint effort between faculty and students with diverse interests is purposeful. At SDSU, several of the core education courses are cross-listed between these disciplines, and many students, pursuing degrees to become agriculture and/or FCS teachers, will attend classes taught by both faculty throughout their time as students. These shared classroom experiences help students recognize the CTE connection that agriculture and FCS share.

ACTE members can read the full article, “iTeachU: Building Upon National and State CTE Teacher Recruitment Efforts,” in the November/December issue of Techniques today. Watch your mailboxes for the print edition to appear this week!

Not a member? Join! ACTE is the largest national education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers.

Teaching Martians: An Interview with Rachael Mann

You’re in for a treat! On Saturday, Dec. 1, educator and author Rachael Mann will lead a keynote luncheon at the 2018 STEM is CTE Symposium, during which she’ll address the martians in your classroom.

Aptly titled, Mann’s new book cowritten with Stephen Sandford, former director of space technology exploration at NASA, The Martians in Your Classroom reveals an urgent need for the convergence of STEM and CTE in every learning space. Mann and Sandford discuss the challenges and responsibilities that go along with preparing students for careers that don’t exist yet. They’re out of this world!

To talk about her new book, the STEM is CTE Symposium and interstellar professional development, Rachael Mann sat down with ACTE for an interview.

In what ways is it uniquely challenging to teach a “Martian” compared to previous generations?

In some ways it’s less challenging. Educators no longer have to be the only expert in the classroom. While students connect with rich resources readily available online — and through other digital means such as virtual and/or augmented reality — teachers serve as facilitators, guiding students as they discover, create and innovate.

It is challenging, in that students are able to access information at a rapid rate and it can be more difficult to keep their attention when using traditional teaching techniques. Educators must keep up with the rate of change. Teachers who rely on traditional lecturing, packets and worksheets will find their students tune out. I had a college professor who frequently said, “It’s a sin to bore a child.” In today’s classroom, teachers need to leverage resources and techniques to ensure that students are engaged and learning in a way that will prepare them for their future reality.

How can CTE teachers break down the classroom walls to create globalized learning spaces as referenced in The Martians in Your Classroom?

While we observe #globalcollaborationweek, what a perfect time to ask this question! The world reaches far beyond the walls of a classroom and should be reflected in our learning spaces. Educators and students are not only able to access a global database of information online, but they are also able to connect virtually with other students and industry experts around the world.

Students, employees and employers no longer compete against local talent, alone, as individuals are able to work remotely and they adapt more easily to new work locations and environments. This creates a more competitive workforce, both for the employer and employee.

What can attendees expect from your keynote luncheon at the 2018 STEM is CTE Symposium?

The Martians in Your Classroom isn’t just about space; it’s a metaphor for the future of education based on the forecasted changes in the world around us, both on and off of planet Earth. According to the Institute for the Future, 85 percent of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. That’s just 12 years away! Students in kindergarten in 2018 will enter this new reality when they graduate from high school. For many, the concept of preparing youth for this future can be daunting and overwhelming. Attendees will leave my keynote luncheon at the 2018 STEM is CTE Symposium with an understanding of the “Big 5” things they can do now to prepare students for tomorrow.

How does space exploration apply to varied subjects?

Career and technical education is the playground where STEM principles come to life. When we think of solving the world’s big problems — traffic, cancer, terror, world hunger or water crises — each solution requires STEM and CTE knowledge and skills, along with an innovative mindset. Space exploration is applicable to every content area and grade level and is a fantastic way to connect subject matter content to STEM. Consider a few examples:

Fire Science

On Earth, flames rise. In space, they move outward from their source in all directions. What does this mean for fire science in the context of space travel?

Culinary Arts

What impact has space travel already had on the food industry? What dietary considerations must be taken into account when planning a trip to Mars?


I encourage you to research NASA’s Vascular Tissue Challenge. What additional problems must be addressed in the realm of biomedical space travel? What advances have been made in medicine as a result of space exploration?


The construction pathway prepares future employees to build our future, whether it’s homes, corporate buildings, community facilities or off-planet structures. What additional considerations need to be made for off-planet structures?

Power, Structural and Technical Systems

Within this pathway students “design agricultural structures as well as machinery and equipment. They develop ways to conserve soil and water and to improve the processing of agricultural products.” This will become even more important in years to come. What can we learn about our own environment from the viewpoint of space? Will we be able to grow natural resources for human consumption?

Fashion Design

What impact has space travel already had on the clothing industry? What factors will need to be taken into consideration when designing space suits for the first martian colonists?

What tools can educators seek out for professional development, to help them teach effectively in these spaces?

The Martians in Your Classroom provides tons of resources for educators. They can visit the resources tab on my website and follow #MartianClassroom on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn for relevant information and ideas to incorporate in your learning spaces.

ACTE is a fantastic place to go for the most up-to-date AND projected trends in education and the workforce. Be sure to check out the magazine, Techniques, and its new blog! Attend ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2018 in San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 28–Dec. 1, and the STEM is CTE Symposium on Saturday, Dec. 1 for even more resources and opportunities for collaboration.

ACTE's CareerTech VISION 2018 will be a celebration in San Antonio

A Celebration in San Antonio: ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2018

San Antonio, Texas, is a city with something to celebrate. It also happens to be the host city for ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2018, held Nov. 28–Dec. 1 at the Henry B. González Convention Center. VISION is the preeminent annual event for career and technical educators, where educators, industry representatives and business leaders connect, learn and grow — all, together, in an effort to promote career and technical education (CTE) fields as a viable and valuable career pathway.

The city of San Antonio honors its 300th birthday in the year 2018 and in what better fashion than by celebrating the diverse, multifaceted nature of CTE. ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2018 will provide for attendees four packed days of high-quality professional development, prime networking opportunities and direct access to thousands of individuals invested in CTE. Make your travel plans and register today (The advance registration discount is on now, through Oct. 26!) to attend VISION because you won’t want to miss the:

  • Renowned keynote speakers, exploring new directions in CTE
  • 300+ concurrent sessions, covering the complete spectrum of secondary and postsecondary CTE
  • CareerTech Expo and interactive exhibitor workshops
  • Career Pavilion, providing essential resources on several CTE career pathways
  • Wednesday workshops and tours, offering insights into focused topics and CTE programming
  • Awards Banquet, a heartwarming gathering of dedicated CTE professionals and supporters
  • Opportunities to connect, collaborate and build lasting friendships with CTE professionals from around the globe
  • STEM is CTE Symposium, addressing diversity, equity and access issues to STEM fields via CTE programs


Where the teacher becomes a student, and the student becomes a better teacher. With more than 300 concurrent sessions that span the spectrum of career and technical education, the educational program at ACTE’s CareerTech VISION offers something for everyone.

Wednesday, Nov. 28 kicks off the premier event for CTE professionals with hands-on workshops and tours that highlight model programs and industry partners in and around San Antonio, Texas. On Thursday morning grab a bite to eat at the First-time Attendee Orientation and Breakfast, generously sponsored by the U.S. Army, before gathering in the main hall for what promises to be an inspirational opening general session from Jenna Hager.

Jenna Hager, a former teacher in Baltimore, is effusive in her passion for literacy and education. As founding chair of UNICEF’s Next Generation, Hager has committed her life’s work to transforming lives through compassion, community support and educational opportunities.

VISION Program Highlights

With more than 300 sessions, the comprehensive VISION program covers key trends and innovations in nearly every aspect of CTE.

  • High-quality CTE Framework
  • Sequencing and Articulation
  • Student Assessment
  • Prepared and Effective Program Staff
  • Engaging Instruction
  • Access and Equity
  • Facilities and Equipment
  • Business & Community Partnerships
  • Career and Technical Student Organizations
  • Work-based Learning
  • Data and Program Improvement
  • Funding and Perkins
  • Integration of Academics and CTE
  • Administrator Trends and Issues
  • Agricultural Education
  • Business Education
  • Family and Consumer Sciences Education
  • Guidance and Career Development
  • Marketing Education
  • Health Science Education
  • Engineering and Technology Education
  • Trade and Industrial Education
  • Postsecondary, Adult and Career Education

The full article, “A Celebration in San Antonio: ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2018,” will appear in the September issue of TECHNIQUES. Watch your mailboxes for this and other great content from career and technical educators, for career and technical educators.

PAGES will feature excerpts from articles published in Techniques and wholly original content.

Launching PAGES, a Techniques blog

Hello, world! Welcome to PAGES, a Techniques blog.

Since joining the staff of ACTE in 2017, I have worked for this day. We’re live! PAGES will feature excerpts from articles in print and wholly original content (interviews, case studies, news items and more) based on the theme of each new issue. We’ll talk about topics trending in career and technical education (CTE). And we’ll highlight stories of educators and programs doing the work to ensure our students graduate college- and career-ready.

From PAGES it is my hope you will find increased value in Techniques online, expanded opportunities for engagement and even more stories of CTE success. Written for career and technical educators by career and technical educators, Techniques addresses the issues ACTE members care about most, providing input you can trust when making decisions for your classrooms, programs and school systems — in print and on the web.

Are you interested in writing for PAGES?

Let’s collaborate! View the 2018–19 Editorial Calendar and reach out via email to discuss your ideas. At conferences, in conversation with students and on the Expo floor at VISION, think of Techniques (and PAGES) often. Bring me your stories, because they are the stories that matter to CTE educators like you.

Check back next week for a preview of our celebration in San Antonio: ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2018.