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CTE - a hands-on approach to learning (11/15/19)

By Ian Teodoro, NTPS Community Relations Intern, Timberline student

Student working with a grinder on metal - sparks are flying.

What is CTE?

When most people think of a typical school day, a setting is thought of- students sitting at their desks taking notes while the teacher lectures with a guided powerpoint. CTE classes completely disregard this stigma. Whether it is operating a power saw, video camera, or cash register, the typical day in a CTE class is much different than the average class.

Career/Technical Education [CTE] are classes offered at schools that help directly connect students to the real world, offering hands on learning and specific key skills that translate to the career and technical fields. Examples of various CTE classes and clubs offered throughout the North Thurston Public School District include Horticulture, Robotics, Autoshop,Sports Medicine, Student Store, Forensics and many more.

Why CTE?

Acting as a stepping stone for many-students, CTE classes allow early access to careers; peaking interest from those unaware of certain CTE related fields or giving students the opportunity to further develop their knowledge in previously explored CTE skills. “I think it [CTE] is extremely important because it helps kids look at different things they might be interested in and try them to find out if that’s what they want to do right after high school,” said CTE Director Brad Hooper. “It’s just as important to find out something you don’t like as it is to find something you like.”

North Thurston High School Senior Jakob Ward shares this attitude regarding CTE. “CTE is important because it gives real world lessons and more tangible education to inspire young people to find different passions then the everyday passions,” said Ward.

A teacher working with students at a machine.

Evan Furtick, a Tech Arts and Robotics teacher at Salish Middle School believes, “CTE classes not only help students build skills that assist them in their other classes but they give students a foundation.” Furtick touches on the fact that not only do CTE classes help prepare students for jobs outside of school, but they also teach practical skills that relate with other classroom skills. For example, CTE classes are all structured around the core concepts of communication, direct application, and team building. Furtick also states, “Students need grounding in, and exposure to, options for their futures outside of the traditional two or four year liberal arts education.”

CTE classes further their practicality by modeling how the “industry” in specific careers evolve; CTE parallels and teaches the essential structure that students need in order to gain a head start in their plans beyond school. “Furthering CTE, we want to make sure we stay up to date with what’s going on in industry, if something is really in demand in the industry we have to make sure we’re offering it in schools. CTE moves with what the industry needs,” said Hooper.

CTE within the district

A key element in the districts CTE curriculum is that it is available at many levels of the students’ education. Starting off early, elementary school students can participate in their schools’ garden. A first step into the world of horticulture introduces students to the basics of caring for plants, growing them and bringing them to life. CTE is also available throughout the middle schools, an example being the Applied Technology class. Here, even more foundational learning skills are taught to students. Not only does NTPS help establish a student’s fascination to specific CTE related activities, but it also assists students taking that second step beyond introduction. Certain high school classes, such as AP Computer Science, aid those who want to go further than the initial intro of CTE classes. In AP Computer Science, students learn programming and problem solving with the possibility of earning college credit. 

For many students, the traditional route of learning does not fit so well. Students tend to question the applicational aspects of their core classes. The difference with CTE classes is that the real world connection is made completely transparent.

Learn more about the NTPS CTE program: nthurston.k12.wa.us/cte