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Are you an innovator?


February is CTE month. As part of SmartBrief Education’s coverage of career and technical education and Path to Workforce, we’ve teamed with ACTE to share articles written by Educators in Action.

As we celebrate CTE Month 2016, we first will reminisce on CTE Month 2015. The CTE Theme 2015: Recognizing Classroom Innovators. How ironic?! This means we’ve all had a full year to ponder the thought, incorporate innovation in our specific scope of work, celebrate successes, highlight innovation in our CTE programs, district, state, and surely flood this month’s blog thread with comments. So, let’s go!

In a very informal setting, I interviewed four CTE teachers (innovators) and decided to share their thoughts. I began with this statement from an article entitled “School Day of the Future” series by Sandy Speicher: “Designing the day around discovery of information, connections to
real world challenges, discussions digging into our experiences with the world…The school day of the future will be unpredictable, inconsistent, and designed to be wildly relevant for the learner, their engagement, and their development.”

What makes someone an innovator in the classroom?
Interviewee 1: The courage and discipline to study and prepare lessons that are able to hit the “relevance” nerve. I have to hit the relevance nerve of every student, every day. If there isn’t a relevance nerve, there should be one. It is the best day ever when students are engaged and take ownership of the lesson or problem to be solved.

What are the obstacles associated with being an innovator?
Interviewee 2: ME. I am the biggest obstacle because innovation exposes what I do not know and what I have to learn.

How are they overcome?
Interviewee 2: I have to embrace the learning curve that innovation presents. I have to also commit the time and mental tenacity to learn it, model it, assess it, and that means: teach in a way I never really imagined.

Tell us about an innovator you have known in the classroom.
Interviewee 3: My students. They are the most fearless thinking innovators. The ideas they come up with in CTE are beyond different, futuristic, unbelievable… and then a student reminded me just this week: “Did you know that we will soon have waterproof clothing? I could go swimming or be in the water for months and my clothes still will remain dry?”  What I think is sometimes “science fiction” is actually becoming our realities.

What have you done to stay innovative in your classroom?
Interviewee 4: I really have to stay abreast of business and industry trends. I also look at ways in which my CTE pathway (the content) has changed. More importantly, I am open to teaching in a way that is non-conventional. For instance, I removed all desks from my classroom and I put in couches, rugs, and corner nooks. I also start each lesson with a video that is less than two-years old. The video is a relevant look at what I am going to be teaching and why it matters.

We are living in an exceptionally stimulating time in terms of science and technology. CTE innovators MATTER!

Eboni Camille Chillis is the coordinator of Career, Technical & Agricultural Education for Clayton County Public Schools in Georgia.

SmartBrief Education’s Path to Workforce content series brings you original content and events on the topic. #Path2W is our vision of college and career readiness, encompassing K-12, adult learners, career changers, non-traditional students and those who forgo a traditional four-year college experience.

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