It's Not Just for CTE Teachers! Connecting Education and Careers through Professional Development Experiences Can Benefit Academic Teachers as Well as Career Tech Teachers

Article excerpt

Have you ever found yourself explaining to a math, science or English teacher the relationship between what they do and what you do? Making the connection between education and workplace skills may work best when everyone understands and respects the roles of the others on the team who are, after all, working toward the same goal--the best possible preparation for their students.

At the Upper Rio Grande College Tech-Prep Youth Consortium in El Paso, Texas, there is a professional development program that helps the academic teachers see that connection between learning and earning. A 40-hour extension program offers middle or high school math, science and English teachers the opportunity to spend a week paired with an industry representative in order to make connections between academic learning and the experience of a real-world workplace.

Director James Valdez notes that their CTE teachers stay more connected with industry because they all have advisory committees that keep them abreast of new developments; therefore, their CTE teachers participate in shorter activities such as job shadowing. However, sometimes a CTE teacher may need a more in-depth experience because he or she has been asked to take on a new class or a new focus, and that need is respected and accommodated.

For the most part, however, Valdez says the emphasis has been on the need to "convert the academic teachers." The academic teachers need to see what is being demanded in the workplace for which they are training their students. It is important to help these teachers "feel the world of work," as he puts it.

"We call it an educator externship because it is also important to get administrators out there," explains Valdez.

So the program is available to principals, assistant principals, counselors and office administrators. Administrators who are on a year-round contract don't get the stipend provided to the teachers, unless they attend during their time off. Although, as Valdez points out, it is clear that the small stipend is not the motivation for these educators.

"It's their desire to get out there and get more information," he says.

Connections for the Teachers

The Upper Rio Grande College Tech-Prep Youth Consortium partners with the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce on the externship program, which is available during the spring or summer breaks or school intercession. A stipend of $360 is provided to each teacher. The teachers also receive an extensive package of materials that includes the following:

* pre-externship meeting agenda

* tips for making the experience a success

* an educator externship journal

* lesson plan forms

* academic standards for math, science and English

* an educator externship evaluation form

* the U.S. Department of Labor's Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) blueprint

* a thank-you reminder

Teachers are advised to meet with the business representatives before the externships in order to establish the work week and schedule, and to determine the expectation of duties as they relate to the teachers' academic objectives. The agenda includes job responsibilities, business rules, dress code, educator requirements and company requirements. …