Students Gain Hands-On Experience in CTE Classrooms for Life Beyond the Classroom

Two students in a computer science class

“Write a loop getting 10 random numbers 1-100 and then print the sum of all the numbers after the loop,” said Keri Molitor as she started her middle schoolers in her Computer Applications 1 class with a quick warm up after winter break. The seventh and eighth graders quickly went to work and started coding to generate an answer. This class is one of more than 80 Career & Technical Education (CTE) courses offered at the middle and high school level in the Northshore School District.

CTE offers a multitude of courses related to technology, health sciences, engineering, business & marketing, transportation, arts and communications, manufacturing, human services and STEM fields of study. While some CTE courses are housed at certain schools, the programs are open to all Northshore students, as well as students in some neighboring districts.

“All of our CTE courses are interconnected with some level of post-secondary education and our focus has always been to provide opportunities for students to take fun classes that may give students some insight as to where they’re going to college and really help them define a career pathway and help them be successful in that pathway,” said Director of Career & College Readiness Damen Schuneman.

CTE Pathways, Dual Credit and Certifications and Program Growth

Culinary student serving appetizers

Last spring, House Bill 1599, which promotes career and college readiness through modified high school graduation requirements, was passed. As it relates to CTE, this bill allows students to access graduation through a CTE pathway in lieu of passing the state assessment. To meet the CTE pathway requirement students must take two or more CTE courses that are in the same program pathway and their selected pathway must lead to or provide post-secondary education credits and/or industry recognized certification. Currently more than 90% of Northshore’s CTE courses offer dual credit.

“All students are encouraged to still take the state assessment, but if a student doesn’t pass then they can utilize a CTE pathway,” said Schuneman.

Dual credit provides students the opportunity to earn college credit for articulated courses that prepare them for a professional or technical career. Students who register their eligible class(es) with the Pacific Northwest Dual Credit program may earn both high school and college credit for completing the class(es) with a B grade (3.0) or better. College credit earned is for college courses currently offered locally at Cascadia and Bellevue colleges, Shoreline Community College, Edmonds Community College and Lake Washington Institute of Technology.

Last school year 454 Northshore students earned 3,368 credits through the dual credit program. Not only are students saving time by earning dual credit, they are also saving money. While the registration fee for dual credit is $50, college tuition is much more. For instance, Bellevue College’s 2019-20 tuition credit rate is $110 per credit for residents. If a Northshore student earns 10 credits through CTE courses they are paying only $50 for what would cost $1,100 at the college.

In addition to credit, students have the opportunity to earn industry certifications. The programs that offer industry certification include: automotive technology, aviation, certified nursing assistant, Microsoft Office specialist, culinary arts, and Teaching Academy. In the 2018-19 school year 423 industry certifications were earned in Northshore.

“These valuable credentials benefit students as they seek employment, prepare for post-secondary education, and build toward a meaningful and productive career,” said Schuneman.

With the District moving to a seven-period day this past fall, CTE saw growth in enrollment. Schuneman said over the summer he hired 12 people, eight of which were new CTE staff to fulfill the enrollment demand.

“The addition of the seven-period day opened up opportunities for students to take more courses,” he said. “We didn’t necessarily know how big of an impact it was going to make, but it was really significant.”

The program provides a gateway to apprenticeships, internships, technical college, community college and often times into four-year universities. CTE programming is generously supported by the Northshore Schools Foundation.

Two CTE pathways that are thriving and meeting the demands of the current workforce are Teaching Academy and Computer Science.

Teaching Academy

CTE student teaching a Preschool student

Students in Teaching Academy learn the ins and outs of pursuing a career in education. Three days a week high school students attend a 90-minute internship at an elementary or middle school in the District. They support teachers in the classroom in a variety of ways, such as helping set up a lesson, supporting students who have questions and grading papers. Two days a week the students meet with each other at Bothell High and share what they did in their classrooms and what they’ve learned. Additionally they create portfolios during class to demonstrate their learning. Junior Vasilina Klimenko is taking Teaching Academy this year and interns at Shelton View Elementary. “I love kids, absolutely love kids,” she said. Klimenko recognizes the struggles students may have, as she struggled in math and English because English wasn’t her first language. “I feel like I can make it easier and tell kids that it’s going to be hard, but you’re going to be okay,” she said. “I feel like teachers can be that outlet to a brighter day for everyone.”

Classmate Haley Kamikawa has always thought being a teacher would be something she’d like so she chose to enroll in the Teaching Academy. She interns at Lockwood Elementary and her favorite part has been “being in the classroom. School is very fun, people want to be there and people want to learn,” she said. “I’ve always liked teaching people and helping out my classmates, so being able to take that to the next level is very fun.”

Klimenko recommends the course because of the experience she’s gained. “I think it’s super cool because a lot of my sister’s friends are teachers and they remember going through it when they were in college and I’m going through it right now and I’m only 16. You can get a step ahead seeing and observing and feeling how it is to be stepping into the teaching world.”

When students finish the program they have the opportunity to obtain their STARS certificate for Washington childcare, earn their credential to be a paraeducator and earn five college credits.

“When employers see the portfolio students created, no matter what field they’re going into, they are impressed that students have had so much hands-on experience and engaged in so many leadership opportunities at such a young age,” said Catherine Doner, who has been the Teaching Academy instructor for 20 years.

Doner said that the majority of her students go on to work in education, mostly as teachers in schools or preschools. She’s seen well over 30 Teaching Academy alum come back to work for Northshore in some capacity - as teachers, paras, subs, school secretary and principal.

Next year the name of the program will change to Careers in Education to be more inclusive of all areas of education that students can pursue as a career. Additionally, the program is intentionally seeking bilingual students to support the need for bilingual teachers.

Computer Science

Three middle school students working together in computer science class

The District offers a comprehensive Computer Science pathway that includes 10 different courses from middle to high school. Some of these include TechSmart, Python 1 & 2, Introduction to Computer Science, and C#. AP and IB computer science courses are also taught, which can lead to students earning college credit.

Inglemoor senior Allan Dao is taking IB computer science this year. “I think the main thing we learn especially with C# and Java is we learn their languages,” he said.

Most of the work is project based, where students are given a baseline to start with and then they are tasked with figuring out a solution to the problem presented. Dao believes that even if students choose to pursue a degree or career in computer science that there is a benefit to taking the coursework. “I think after you finish taking the course you can kind of see how when you learn the language you think in a different way,” he said. “With computer science you adopt a problem solving mindset that you don’t really have in other classes.”

Cathy Zhao, who is a junior at Inglemoor, believes her computer science coursework will help her future endeavors. “I feel like this course will push me to learn the skills I need to be competent in programming so I can work toward looking for internships and passing interviews,” she said. Computer Science isn’t just in high schools. It began at the middle school level in fall 2017. Molitor, who teaches the subject at Leota Middle School said she has an array of skill levels in her courses. Her sixth graders learn the basics through TechSmart, while her seventh and eighth graders get into more advanced coding.

Seventh grader Abbie Mai is in Molitor’s class. When asked what she likes about computer science and coding she said “It’s kind of cool, I just like coding and programming. I like just the thought of learning to code your own things, and I like how you get to see behind the scenes.”

Mai’s classmate, Krithika Burugupalli also likes the class because of the creativity. “I think it’s cool we get to design our own stuff,” she said. She also recognizes how connected she is to coding with things she uses daily such as computers and websites.

While coding may not be for everyone, Molitor believes it’s beneficial to at least know the basics to be prepared for the future.

“Even if TechSmart is the only computer science course students take, if they really have no calling for it and choose not to even go into it in high school, I think just being able to read through basic code is going to be required and necessary for many of the jobs that a lot of students are going to try to obtain in the future,” she said.

“I think it’s awesome that Northshore has provided free education. These kids aren’t having to go out and do the summer courses or go code everyday after school and pay tuition to companies,” said Molitor. “We’re providing it in order to keep them applicable and competitive in the workforce that they’re going to enter.”

 

 

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