Our team is always talking about how using the right CTE resources and curriculum can help teachers save time and be effective, but how exactly does that work? Jim Schultz took a trip to a number of schools in Florida that use our Business&ITCenter21 curriculum to help answer that question. During the trip he was able to speak with CTE administrators and business education teachers in Pinellas County Schools.
Meet Kevin, Dee, and Steve from Pinellas County Schools
Kevin Schachter is currently a business and technology teacher at Palm Harbor University High School. Before he was a high school business teacher, Kevin spent 20 years in the hotel and restaurant business. What made him interested in teaching?
“One of the biggest reasons I did it is I just saw that there was a lot of stuff missing in a lot of the common knowledge that kids weren’t getting in school anymore and saw that I might be able to help with adding that back in.”
Dee Chastain is currently an Instructional Staff Developer in the Pinellas County Schools’ CTAE District Office, that helps support business education teachers across the district. Like Kevin, she didn’t start out in the education field:
“I was a legal assistant before I came to this… then I went to college for Education and received both my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Education and then began teaching. I have been teaching for over 16 years, mostly in Pinellas County. I have experience teaching middle school, high school, and college. I have been in Pinellas County 13 years.”
Steve Plummer is the District Supervisor for Business Technologies, Information Technologies, Marketing, and Diversified Education. Much like Dee and Kevin, he spent years working in another industry before entering the world of education:
“I had 22 years in the business world before I became a teacher. I did IT and I was a sales guy. I was in high-tech software sales. My kids were younger at the time and I was missing a lot of things. There was a change in the industry I was working in, and I decided I have an opportunity to do this [teach].
In 2006, I started teaching at Tarpon High, spent 2 years there, then went to East Lake High and had 5 years there. During that time I got in the administrator pool and I was an Assistant Principal one year at Dunedin High School. Then I was asked to interview for this position and have been here for over 2 years.”
Overcoming Challenges for First-Year Teachers
Jim was sure to ask the group about the biggest challenges they and their fellow educators face, especially in the first year of teaching. The first year is the toughest for all teachers, but even more so for those in Career and Technical Education who lack a background in education.
“I think for anybody it’s always classroom management,” Kevin pointed out. He elaborated on how using the CTE resources within Business&ITCenter21 has been able to free up time so he can focus more on managing the classroom more effectively:
“It’s really good at saving me a lot of time and effort. I don’t have to create a lot of stuff. It’s already there [in Business&ITCenter21]. It’s, for the students, very self-directed. So once I can get them going in something, then I can focus on the kids who need assistance.”
In their roles at the district level, Steve and Dee often work closely with first-year business teachers. Steve shared that helping first-year teachers succeed is critical, especially because finding someone to fill a spot in the CTE areas can be difficult. Steve expanded further on working with these teachers, and how Business&ITCenter21 can help them meet required course standards:
“I take the approach that I will provide the teachers with resources, but I want to treat them with respect, in the fact that I say, ‘You know what you’re supposed to do as the teacher. You need to cover your standards, and you need to provide evidence that you are doing that, but do it the way you need to do it. You do it your way.’
[In regards to Business&ITCenter21], the teachers can look and say ‘Oh, I can plug right into this module and into this lesson and it will satisfy that [standard.]’”
Meeting the Needs of Every Student and Teacher
All teachers know that every student is different. Not only do they have unique personalities and quirks, but also unique learning styles and paces. For Dee, she realized this during her time in the classroom in regards to reading levels.
“That was one of the first things that I pulled when I received my roles. I want to see their reading levels. I think one of the really good points about Business&ITCenter21 would be the videos, because our level one students have such difficulties reading.”
Kevin agreed with Dee that Business&ITCenter21 makes a difference in meeting the needs of his diverse student body:
“Yeah, because with low-level readers, even with ESOL [English for Speakers of Other Languages] students, I’ve found it’s a really, very useful tool for them. It has been really good for those students.”
Teachers also know better than anyone that there are many difficult situations that must be faced in the classroom. Dee recalls some ways that a specific part of the CTE resources in Business&ITCenter21 has helped teachers that don’t yet have a full computer lab:
“Just the PowerPoints. If we go into a situation where we’ve not yet set up a lab, they can access those PowerPoints and they can still teach without having computers in their classrooms. So the PowerPoints, while maybe not all teachers use them, I feel are an essential part of the software.”
Aligning with Business Education Standards
In our CTE curriculum, we try to cover as many business education standards as possible to make sure teachers can cover everything they need to. Not all our modules are always utilized, and sometimes teachers wish there were more. However, these Pinellas County educators have enjoyed how some modules can be widely applied across all Business and IT courses in the Florida curriculum frameworks. Kevin summed this up in terms of his experience:
“So something like web design isn’t going to have a ton of stuff in there [Business&ITCenter21], but there’s a lot of other basic business and soft skills standards that are part of that course that would be covered. Things like the professionalism module and digital citizenship and things like that can be used in any class.”
In addition to the broad coverage, Kevin found some other aspects of Business&ITCenter21 to be useful in knowing what his students are getting out of it. The automatic grading for assignments in Business&ITCenter21 not only saves time for teachers, but provides them with an indication of student mastery for standards and topics:
“It’s first showing the mastery. When there’s a strong correlation between the standards and the framework and a piece of software [Business&ITCenter21], I would see it in the grade. So that, for example, if I’m covering word processing, I can use any word processing module. There’s a pretty strong correlation to those standards, so that if a kid’s getting a good score in that module, I know they’ve got a good grasp of the basics of Microsoft Word.”