CTE Teachers Adapt to Distance Learning

CTE Teachers Adapt to Distance Learning
Posted on 02/16/2021
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By Ryan Stuart

rstuart@santacruzsentinel.com

SANTA CRUZ >> Teachers have had to make major adjustments to their classes during a global pandemic that has lasted 11 months, but career tech teachers took that one step further.

Career tech courses allow high school students, and even some middle school students, the opportunity to learn about real world practices in class. The ones offered at Santa Cruz City Schools include medical technologies, mill cabinetry, photography, criminal justice and many more.

“That’s what’s so wonderful about CTE,” said Career Tech Education Counsellor Sheri Williams. “They get to actually try this career on. It’s just such a fabulous program.”

As great as the courses may be, they typically require some hands-on learning, which doesn’t work during a global pandemic. The last 11 months of school have been primarily online, so working hand-in-hand with a teacher has not been entirely possible. However, teachers across the district have come up with a way to continue to give students the hands-on training they need to learn the skills these courses usually provide. Take home bags full of textbooks, equipment and instructions have been the pinnacle of class preparation for these courses.

“Our teachers have just done some really cool things like putting together kits for their kids and sending them home,” Williams said.

For Donna Marie Stahl, a medical technologies teacher, her take home kit includes basic medical tools. Inside students found a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff, personal protective equipment similar to what doctors wear when dealing with COVID-19 patients or for surgery, as well as a first aid kit. 
Pete Bascacci creates miter boxes in the Harbor High School wood shop for his cabinetry, millwork and woodworking students to use at home while classes are held remotely. Boscacci teaches CTE classes at Harbor and Santa Cruz high schools and at Branciforte Junior High.

Pete Boscacci has created kits for his students to take home that include a hobby saw, miter box, safety glasses, glue, ruler, pencil, clamp, Sharpie and sandpaper along with the wood needed to complete the assignments.

“It gives them that opportunity at home. They’re actually finding ways to get the work done and to have fun doing so,” Stahl said. “They’re listening to their siblings’ and families’ lungs and heart sounds. It gives them that understanding of the demonstration of it.”

Unfortunately, not all of her students have been able to practice on siblings or family members. Therefore, some of them have had to get creative. One student made a makeshift arm out of towels in order to practice taking someone’s blood pressure.

Pete Boscacci, a mill cabinetry teacher, has had to get creative with his classes, too. Woodworking is a skill that is usually done in a shop.

Boscacci’s curriculum has changed slightly due to the pandemic. One of the main focuses right now is teaching students about the different woodworking techniques.

Students learn about lumber, reading plans and sketches, the properties of wood as well as sanding and finishing techniques. The class also talks about how to restore furniture.

“(It’s) a lot of the same things we would do if we were in class, we’re just skipping the hands-on part, right now,” Boscacci said. “It’s an introduction to the woodworking world.”

However, that doesn’t mean that students don’t have an opportunity to work with wood at home. Boscacci’s distance learning mill cabinetry class comes with a take home kit, as well.

Their kits include safety goggles, glue, sandpaper and a miter box, which is used to help cut perfect angles. Boscacci also included raw materials for his students to make several projects over the course of the school year.

Boscacci is aware that not all students have a workbench or garage in their homes, so he adjusted the projects accordingly. Most of the projects he assigned only required a two-foot by two-foot space. Therefore, a kitchen table, an outdoor area, or even a desk will serve as a good workstation.

“I’ve made sure they had that workspace before they got involved. You don’t need a big space,” he said. “I’ve emphasized, ‘Please, don’t cut into your kitchen table.’ I haven’t had any issues with that, yet.”

While distance learning has come with many challenges, the major ones are not always the most obvious. Boscacci and Stahl said the biggest challenges for them have been being away from their students and adjusting to online teaching.

“That would probably be the hardest for me, not being right there with them,” Stahl said. “You miss that contact with them.”

Boscacci agreed. Distance learning may also be detrimental to how students learn, but Boscacci had nothing but praise for their ability to continue with their studies and learn new skills.

“I’m really impressed by the kids,” he said. “I’m so encouraged that the kids are showing up every day and I give them a lot of credit for that. It’s not easy on their end. They’re doing the best they can under the circumstances to get involved. We’re pretty inspired.”