I still recall during my first year of teaching in 1976 when I attended a faculty meeting and my supervisor reminded the faculty to assemble an advisory committee to meet at least twice a year. New to the school district and recently graduated from college and now the resident content expert, I was charged with educating the students in the horticulture program. Barely able to keep my lesson plans one week ahead of schedule and now petrified at the idea of having green industry experts meeting daily with me to discuss the program, I realized I did not have the wealth of knowledge that these folks were bringing to the table. All I thought I knew and learned in college classes and internships was no match for the local industry experts. I came to grips with the fact that if my students were going to gain many skills and competencies in their career and technical area, then I must expand the classroom. Three important attributes that made my advisory committee's effectiveness increase included the instructor having a positive attitude, openness, and a spirit of teamwork!
It's all about ownership! Teachers are often told that the classroom is their domain and they have a responsibility to develop the career and technical program. Sometimes teachers literally interpret this statement and develop the program they feel will benefit the students. When a teacher internalizes and understands the concept of expanding the ownership of the program to a larger community of stakeholders, then teamwork and openness begin to occur.
In 2004 I was hired at Tolles Career & Technical Center (Plain City, Ohio) to lead the instruction in the Turf, Landscape, and Greenhouse Management program, and I was asked during the interview to share my vision for the program. Without hesitation, I quickly directed the question back to the interview committee and asked them to share with me their vision for the program. I knew then, as I know now, my vision alone would not be enough to take the program and students to their potential.
Building Collaborative Teams
A successful educator creates opportunities for students and communities to collaborate. The building blocks necessary to build collaborative teams include gathering key stakeholders from the business and industry field along with schoolbased supporters. These individuals must come together with a common goal and shared vision - developing leaders for the respective career and technical program area. My advisory committee consists of the garden center and landscape build/design owners, golf course superintendents, major green industry leaders within my school district, academic instructors, parents, past students, and current students. The twenty-five member collaborative team works with me in providing students with the essential skills, knowledge, and attitudes the students require to gain successful employment in the field and/or preparation for post secondary instruction.
Listen - Action - Results
My responsibility is to listen to the wants and needs of the collaborative team and then develop a series of strategies that will result in the students' skill development. One such initiative involved the development of a one-hole golf course on the school property. Our school district rests within an area that has many private and public golf courses that host a number of LPGA and PGA tournaments - most notably The Memorial Golf Tournament held at Muirfield Village Golf Course. The industry leaders met and expressed a need for the program to prepare students for entry into the golf course industry. In cooperation with industry leaders over $60,000 of supplies, equipment, and services were provided to our program to offset the cost of the installation of the 364-yard golf hole. Students are now able to add specific skills in golf course operation and management through our high school program. A secondary benefit of this initiative was the opportunity to chaperone students to gain skills at in other venues such as Augusta National Golf Course and numerous courses in Myrtle Beach, SC. …