Pocahontas BOE Receives Briefing on Technical High Schools
At the July 30th Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, Dr. Kathy D’Antoni, West Virginia’s Assistant State Superintendent of Schools, who runs the Division of Technical and Adult Education made a rather startling presentation about the future of technical and vocational education curriculums in our schools. She had been invited to talk about these in the context of the ten-year Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan currently being developed by a committee of educators and citizens who are exploring the possibility of building a Technical High School in the county within the next ten years.
D’Antoni explained that Technical High Schools change the curriculum of a school from the strictly traditional approaches of teaching STEM courses by teaching those subjects within the context of student projects or businesses. She was excited to talk about the advantages of this non-traditional approach,
“If you are going to grow the Pocahontas County area and economy, you’re going to have to have the young people coming up to have the skills -hopefully to stay in this county and help build the county” said D’Antoni. “A Technical High School doesn’t mean (only) carpentry, welding, whatever. In today’s age, it’s Aerospace Technology, it’s Bio-Medical, it’s Cybersecurity, it’s Coding. And these are areas where your young people can delve into and stay in the area, and make lots of money. So, there is so many possibilities when you allow young people to have the opportunity to dream, to explore, to create!”
D’Antoni explained that this new method of teaching is being implemented in WV in schools like Lincoln High School, as close as the middle school in Monroe County, and in schools across the country.
The approach is to have the students cluster into areas that interest them, research the subject matter on their own and learn the traditional core subjects such as Math, English, Science and even literature, music and the arts within the context of developing projects or businesses. She said students now have control of their own learning because it allows for them to see the big picture – which is how what they are learning actually fits into the real world and they respond enthusiastically, including students who used to hate school. She quoted one Lincoln County Teacher who told her “I had no idea I was holding my students back until I let them have the input.”
she gave an example in where carpentry students were completely puzzled when asked to determine the slope of a geometric shape, but instantly knew the answer when the same problem was presented to them in terms of determining the pitch of a roof.
D’Antoni illustrated the concept.
“Traditionally, a teacher teaches everything rather than the student” said D’Antoni. “Lincoln County does it the best I’ve ever seen. The teacher provides what they have to learn, the students, then take over the project and the teacher helps them figure out how to do it. I guess the best example is I was sitting one of the meetings, and the teacher was talking about one of the projects they wanted to build -the launch pad for a rocket- and this is what the teacher wanted, the students were in the same meeting and they said why can’t we build the rocket? And the teacher didn’t think they had the skill set to build the rocket, so the students did all the research, and the teacher helped them find the resources, and together, they figured out how to build the rocket.”
She also said the technical curriculum could be implemented in several ways: It could be the only one in a school, since academic classes can also be taught within this structure; or you could mix, match or invent your own combination of Traditional and Technology curriculums, but either way, the State has the money and resources to assist.
The next part of this story will be about everything else that happened during this Board of Education Meeting.