Posted by: Tom Ross | May 17, 2011

Where Do CTE Teachers Come From?

Still in awe of all the career pathway options available to high school and community college students today, I was discussing these opportunities with a friend and we both had the same question: where do the CTE teachers come from? Are they regular teachers with some industry experience? Or are they industry people who have decided to become teachers? And if so, why?

Last week I had a chance to speak with Greg DiGiovanni, the Project Coordinator for CTE TEACH, a web-based, online and on-site CTE teacher training program in Redlands, CA, partnered by the Colton-Redlands-Yucaipa Regional Occupational Program and the California Department of Education (CDE). This project is designed to increase teacher retention and improve instruction and teacher effectiveness through a system of on-going support. It also provides an early orientation program for new CTE teacher credentialing. Their stakeholders, Greg told me, are K-12, ROP/Cs, Adult Ed, community colleges and charter schools, anyone who serves the needs of CTE teachers.  So I posed the question (“Where do the CTE teachers come from?”) to him.

Top row L-R: Stephen Stalker–Technology Support Specialist, Mark Lyons–Project Facilitator, Greg DiGiovanni–Project Coordinator; Bottom row: Dr. Linda Denver–Project Facilitator, Becky Sharp–Peer Coach Leader

Greg: I think right now the economy has dictated a lot of this. A lot of professionals have lost jobs. And this gives them an opportunity to find employment by teaching the industry they were in. We also find that there are a lot of people in the industries who want to teach part-time.  This works because often teachers’ hours have been cut down. Full-time today, for a lot of teachers, is just four or five periods. It allows the professional who wants to give back to the community another way to do it. So you have people who have lost their jobs, those who want to give back to the community, and those who just want to share their knowledge. Those are the reasons you see specialists going into teaching. And you don’t have to have a four-year college degree. The transition to teaching CTE is pretty simple.

Tom: If I were in some industry and just lost my job, and I’ve always harbored a desire to teach…I’m not sure I would even know teaching CTE is an option.

Greg: That’s true. I know for me personally I was working full time in marketing and after a conversation with someone who was trying to sell me some marketing materials I realized I knew more than he did about teaching and selling. He seemed to realize this and said to me, how would you like to teach? My concept of this was that I would have to get a degree and do the student teaching. But he explained to me that with the college education I had, even without those, I could teach my trade. That’s how I found out about it.

Tom: Was it an easy transition?

Greg: When I started teaching I had no idea what I was doing. If it hadn’t been for a teacher across campus, a colleague I could call about all the things you need to know—parking, attendance sheets, the basics—combined with my love for teaching, I wouldn’t have made it. Before I was a school teacher, my greatest joy was in training new employees. So I told myself that I could make this work. It took me two or three years to get on my feet, and it shouldn’t have been that way. CTE TEACH is helping this transition by providing new CTE teachers support, orientation, and resources. I wish I had been so lucky.

Tom: What has the response been like to CTE TEACH?

Greg: Organizations have also told us that their teachers are more engaged, they’re attending meetings more, asking more questions, they’re more involved, and they like the professional development because they don’t then feel like a fish out of water. The early orientation that we have developed is to help these individuals make the transition from industry to the classroom and give them the support they want and need. And the onsite comprehensive program is  for  two years or longer to continue to help those teachers. So it’s not just a quick, down and dirty, one-time thing; it’s constant support with good communication. Teachers have told us that without this program they wouldn’t have survived.

Maybe in another year we may get some answers. You can measure that in a number of ways: we’ve seen classroom enrollment increase in elective classes, for example. When you have a good teacher—I was in a classroom for twenty-eight years and I know what to look for—students recommend the class to their friends. And as those students graduate, the seniors are surveyed, and I’m proud to say that at our school the top percentile credited a lot of their success and social well-being and citizenship to ROP classes.

For real numbers, you can also look at attendance, discipline, things like that. Teachers tell us that they don’t know how they can prove their success is due to CTE TEACH without three or four years of enrollment data, etc. But they feel for now that they can make that connection.

We’ve also created our own survey. You can see the results here.

Tom: Where can the new CTE teacher find the new teacher orientation?

Greg: You can access the Early Orientation modules here. It includes about 20 hours of readings and videos. Your work and progress are tracked toward your certificate of completion. There are also professional development modules for “quick reference or comprehensive examination of the material.” That’s a quote from the website. CTE Online is a great resource for CTE teacher curriculum and resources.

So, there you have it. A partial answer, at least, to the question, “Where do CTE teachers come from?” Are you a CTE teacher? How did you get involved in teaching?

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