ACTE VISION 2016 Conference: A Behind the Scenes Look

For CTE educators, finding time to learn about their field and think of new ideas is difficult, especially when it involves traveling. Because we work with thousands of educators across the United States, we want to help them any way we can. Jim Schultz, President of AES, attended the ACTE VISION 2016 Conference and would like to give an overview of the conference to help you stay informed and be inspired by others in your field.

I asked Jim to provide me with his thoughts and notes on VISION 2016. He has attended the last 31 ACTE conferences and this year was the first year he went as an attendee instead of as a vendor. This was a new, eye-opening experience for Jim and it provided a unique opportunity for him. Because Jim attended just as a teacher would, he was able to go to some of the sessions and met a lot of other attendees.

The ACTE VISION 2016 Opening General Session

Lorri Carlile Speaking at ACTE Vision 2016.jpgLorri Carlile, President of ACTE speaking at the Opening General Session

During the Opening General Session Lorri Carlile, President of ACTE, shared some amazing stats about this year’s conference. She said in 2016 they had a dramatic increase in the membership of ACTE for the first time in 12 years. At the conference, there were around 4,500 attendees, which is the highest in 9 years! They asked all first-time attendees in the crowd to stand up, and this was Jim’s impression:

“When they asked first-time attendees to stand up, I estimate maybe ⅓ of the room. It seemed like a ton of first-time people were there.”

The Keynote speaker at the Opening General Session was Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies. The overarching theme of her speech was what she calls the “key ingredients”: passion, perfection, perseverance, and the power of people.

Jim explained that Fields shared her back story of not doing well academically in school, and many people called her “stupid.” But she found her passion in baking cookies, and wanted to pursue it. When she first started Mrs. Fields, pretty much everyone was against it - including her family. Even though she had multiple banks turn her down, she persevered and wouldn’t take “No” for an answer.

In speaking with Jim, I think the most relevant take-away for teachers from the keynote speech is that Fields said she had a few teachers that really believed in her. They told her to keep moving forward and it made a powerful difference in her life.

The Health Science Education Division Opening Session

After the ACTE VISION 2016 Opening Session, Jim found his way to the Health Science Education Division Opening. Since AES provides CTE curriculum for health science courses, he was excited to attend the session and learn from health science educators.  

Gina Riggs, the ACTE President-Elect, from the Kiamichi Technical Centers - Poteau Campus in Oklahoma started off the session and commented: “This was the biggest crowd they ever had at a Health Science Opening Session at the ACTE.” When talking about the session Jim said he estimated about 250 people were in attendance, and around half of them were first-time attendees.

The first two people who spoke during the session were sponsors. Realityworks spoke about the need to combine hard and soft skills and shared content they have on employability skills. The second sponsor was NHA, who talked about the difference between industry credentials and certifications.

After the sponsors spoke, the ACTE Health Science Teacher of the Year Award was given. Jeff Wooley, a Medical Assistant teacher from the Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology was the recipient of the award. When I asked what Jeff talked about, Jim said:

He talked about how all of the teachers were there at the conference because they are passionate about teaching… and his point was that it’s all about the students.

2016 ACTE National New Teacher of the Year Mixes it up with Her CTE Lesson Plans

The next presentation was by Jessica Young, the 2016 ACTE National New Teacher of the Year. She received the award at the ACTE VISION 2015 Conference. Jessica is a health science technology instructor at Southern Arkansas University Tech Career Academy in Camden, Arkansas. Jim enjoyed her presentation, even from the very first slide when she said “Learning is not a spectator sport.

When talking about Jessica’s presentation, Jim shared that she talked about how hard it is to transition from an industry career to teaching. This is a common challenge we hear from health science teachers across the United States.

“She said, ‘Hey, I’m in the trenches. I was an RN for many years and no one gave me any hints on how hard the first year of teaching is. They just dumped you in there.’ Then she said even though she was an expert on the content, ‘learning and classroom management is a whole other issue.’”

Jessica then spoke about how she tries to have her students be very active in the learning process. She creates games and activities in order to mix it ups. Some of her examples were:

  • Musical chairs test review
  • Rock, paper, scissors with medical terms
  • Charades to work on communication skills
  • Speed Dating to talk about the Reproductive System
  • Elevator Speeches to prepare for leadership or HOSA events
  • Guess Who with medical histories of the characters
  • Writing eulogies to talk about legacy for end-of-life lessons

Jim’s last note about Jessica was something that really stuck with him…. Her thoughts on the idea of soft skills versus clinical skills:

“Not soft skills. They are employability skills, You need to have them to have a career.”

Learn more about Jessica Young on the ACTE website: 2016 ACTE New Teacher of the Year

How to Help Your Students Learn Better

Learning to Learn - Presentation at VISION 2016.png

Jim also sat in on Dennis Ryan’s session “Learning to Learn - Understanding the Brain and Learning.” Dennis is a health occupations teacher at East Career & Technical Academy in Clark County School District, Nevada. He opened by providing background on Bloom’s Taxonomy, Howard Gardner’s learning styles, and Carl Jung’s work on learning personalities. After setting the scene with this background and some other information, Dennis shared how he applies brain-based learning in his classroom.

While teaching, Dennis has two different “modes” - Focused and Diffuse. The focused mode of thinking is the actual work of learning and is essential for studying. He made a point to say that for some students the focused mode could be five minutes and for others it could be longer. In addition, the diffuse mode is where students take a break from studying and learning. The breaks allow for more relaxed thinking and students make connections between information they already knew and have just learned.

After discussing the two modes, Dennis talked about 8 Rules of Learning, which he compiled from different books about brain-based learning:

  1. Exercise
  2. Take Breaks and Avoid Fatigue
  3. Pre-Learning
  4. Metacognition
  5. Set Goals
  6. Take on Difficult Tasks First
  7. Chunking
  8. Spaced Repetition

The presentation was very in-depth and had many links and videos to provide more information. You can view the full slide deck by clicking here.

Reflections on the ACTE VISION 2016 Conference

Since 2016 was the first time Jim attended the ACTE VISION Conference as an attendee, he had a new perspective on the show. He had a good time attending the different sessions and hearing how CTE educators are going above and beyond in the classroom.

Hearing that the membership number of ACTE has gone up shows that more and more people truly care to help students in CTE career pathways. If you aren’t already a member, we encourage you to learn more about ACTE by checking out their website: About the Association for Career & Technical Education

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December 22, 2016