Our team had the opportunity to digitally “meet up” with part of the Kiamichi Technology Center’s health science staff. EMS Director, Gina Riggs, and teachers Paige Shoup and Tasia Brand shared the challenges of being a health science technology teacher, and how to overcome them. They also volunteered excellent advice for new health science teachers.
Preparing Students for Health Science Certification Exams
In regards to using HealthCenter21, Paige believes the curriculum “has really helped our students succeed in their national health science exams that they take at the end of the course.” Their students take the NCHSE (National Consortium for Health Science Education) exit exam and the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education exams. She further explained:
“We have the Oklahoma Department of Career Tech and Education that’s located in Stillwater here, and that’s our state government department. They have what’s called CIMC, which is the Curriculum and Instructional Materials Center. CIMC writes all kinds of curriculum and all kinds of tests for anything and everything. Experts go in and write those exams for the state. Sometimes they’re used in other states also.”
The teachers and staff at Kiamichi are concerned about making sure students are prepared to pass these exams. Preparing students with a variety of backgrounds and abilities poses some big challenges and rewards.
Challenges for Health Science Technology Teachers
During the conversation, Jim Schultz asked the Kiamichi team about challenges they face in the classroom. Specifically, he asked about individual student needs and how to accommodate those issues in the classroom.Paige explained:
“Mostly I’ve found out that if I have a student that is a little bit slower at getting their work done, I might have to cut out part of their curriculum, but usually I cut out DHO [Diversified Health Occupations] and the worksheets because they seem to learn better from the AES [HealthCenter21]. We can tailor our curriculum to meet students’ needs. For example, I have one student who is very involved in sports at his home school. He’s gone a lot, so he has trouble progressing through the work. I’ll cut down on some of the projects and the reading and have him do the AES because he likes that best.”
Another challenge common to health science teachers is student engagement. Students that aren’t engaged rarely learn. So keeping students engaged is critical to success. With that in mind, the Kiamichi teachers shared that the best way to engage students is to build blended learning into your health science lesson plans. Providing variety makes a big difference!
“In our classroom, not all of the students enjoy being on the computer for any length of time. They’d rather be doing group work or projects besides looking at the computer. Students work independently at their own pace” - Tasia
“I find that too. That’s why I try to do a variety of activities which include HealthCenter21, hands-on activities, and then working in small groups.” - Paige
How to Implement Blended Learning in a Health Science Classroom
So if blended learning is the recommended course of action, what’s the best way to go about it? Paige described a typical unit of study this way:
“We have three Health Career teachers and we all three have modules that students follow. The modules will combine a variety of learning methods. For example, they’ll read a chapter in the DHO book, and then do the worksheet in DHO. Then they’ll have to do a related module on HealthCenter21. Finally, they’ll have to do hands-on projects.
We just try to utilize all of our resources to give the learner a wide variety, so AES is just one part of each module that the student does. HealthCenter21 really inspired the variety of teaching tools that we could use in Health Careers. We had students using textbooks and workbooks. Then adding HealthCenter21 to that gave students a wider range of learning tools. I think HealthCenter21 was a fabulous addition.”
Advice for a New Health Science Teacher
When asked what advice they would give to a new health science instructor, the Kiamichi teachers had some great advice. Tasia said:
“I would say that at the beginning it’s very overwhelming, and I think a lot of our new teachers feel that. I would just say that they have to give it time for it to get better, so they can find their own way of doing it.”
Paige followed up with:
“You know we’re in the process of getting ready to hire a new health career teacher here at our campus, and I’ve had to recently talk to people about it. I pretty much tell them what Tasia said. The first year is tough. But here at McAlester we’re lucky because we’re a three-teacher program. And so they’re going to have a support team. But you have to give it time, and it’s wonderful because you have your own area, your own classroom, and your own students. You can develop your curriculum to fit your students’ needs, and that is very rewarding. Just like Suzy Ha told me one time (she introduced me to this job)… If you help one student to succeed, then you’ve really done a lot for that one person. Not everybody is going to succeed. You can’t expect a 100% success.”
For CTE Directors, one of the biggest challenges is turnover with health science instructors. Mentoring is a big part of helping new teachers become successful. Paige said about this:
“When I was new, I networked with other campuses, and I went to visit other health careers classrooms. That helped me immensely. I’ve found that all of the teachers in the KTC and in the whole district are willing to share their curriculum and share their ideas, and I’ve found that going to see how other people did it helped me to see how I wanted to do it.”