In the fall of 2006, Holy Rosary Credit Union in Rochester opened a branch within the Richard W. Creteau Tech Center at Spaulding High School, which provides juniors and seniors with a unique opportunity found nowhere else in the state.
“Students run the branch 4 days a week with Wednesday a chance for them to complete one of 27 online modules,” said Branch Manager Leah Esslinger-Sprowl, who is also a certified teacher. “These modules to help complete their Student Teller Certificate that they can use on a resume when applying for jobs in the future.”
Formally known as Banking and Financial Support Services, the program measures the progress made by students based on NH Department of Education Competencies. The first competency for which students are assessed is that they understand “concepts, process, principles, systems, and strategies of banking services and functions in order to process customer transactions and provide other customer services as requested.”
“On average, students will process between 5 and 8 teller transactions during their 90-minute class time every day,” added Esslinger-Sprowl.
In addition to how to process transactions, she said they work very intentionally to help students develop their business communication skills as well as develop their ability to cross-promote products. “They also must design a business presentation and do some additional research, such as comparing fees at other institutions while learning Microsoft Office products like Excel and Power Point,” she added.
Another core competency in the program includes understanding concepts, process, principles, systems, and strategies related to investment planning which is completed in the second level of the program. Other areas of focus include the development of Career Ready Practice and personal leadership skills and general Career Ready Practice skills is also specifically addressed in the program.
“The students go through every policy—ethics and compliance, for instance—that a regular employee would upon getting hired,” said Esslinger-Sprowl, who noted the program has also resulted in careers for many former students. “We currently have a few still working for us and have moved into other departments such as IT and accounting…it’s been wonderful to see that growth.”
In looking ahead at the program, she said she hopes to increase enrollment, which currently stands at 9 students. In addition to the program Esslinger-Sprowl runs a budget simulation fair called CU 4 Reality within Spaulding, which is a curriculum developed in partnership with credit unions and educators. “The program provides hands-on budget instruction for students of any age,” she added.
After completing the curriculum, students participate in a CU 4 Reality Fair, which she describes as “a fun but meaningful event” related to spending and budgeting based on career choices and lifestyle decisions.”
The 2015-2016 school year marks the 10th year of the program within the Tech Center. “It is a very strong program and provides students with a unique opportunity to work closely with an industry partner right in the school,” she said. “We hope to eventually be able to offer college credits with the program. For now, though, we are just very excited to quite literally train tomorrow’s workforce within the school—I am proud of what the students have accomplished here.”
Professional development of both returning and incoming teachers is critical to the strategic direction of Career and Technical Education (CTE) centers across New Hampshire.
“We are developing clusters of teachers where what we are looking to teach is not content, but instructionally-based,” said Kirsten Soroko, who has been tasked with the responsibility to provide trainings statewide. “We want CTE teachers to get to know one another, talk pedagogy, and education within and outside their centers.”
Noting there are 16 such clusters in the state, she has trained teachers in workshops and offered a Summer CTE Boot Camp with Concord’s Val Koch for those exclusively new to the field of teaching.
“There are many new teachers in CTE centers across the state—we had 23 or 24 at our Summer Boot Camp and half were missing because they were at work,” she added. “These new teachers know their industry, but they require guidance in trying to instruct students in that knowledge.”
Reflecting the latest trends in instructional pedagogy, Soroko said it is her job to help both seasoned and new CTE teachers understand the importance in cultivating Depth of Knowledge (DOK) in students. According to her, DOK may be broken down into 4 levels and refers to levels of complexity regarding knowledge as opposed to something quantitative in nature.
While DOK 1 refers to knowledge on a subject that is purely descriptive, DOK 2 through DOK 4 represent an understanding that correspondingly relies on the respective ability to compare and contrast, synthesize and postulate theories. To achieve these successfully deeper levels of knowledge, however, she said it is important CTE teachers recognize that not all students learn in the same way.
“Some learn visually, some are kinesthetic, while others are auditory learners,” she said.
Within these CTE professional development training initiatives, Soroko said she has keyed in on the idea of differentiated instruction in which teachers concurrently address the diverse needs of these students at the same time. According to incoming CTE teachers, the initiative is working.
“We looked at the Rigor Matrix at The Boot Camp and I understood it, but didn’t know yet how to apply it,” said Rob Clark of the Mount Washington CTE Center. “After today, I do understand it and can see where some of my lessons have landed on the Matrix and also realized some need to go further.”
Another area of focus is the need to develop curriculum maps, which one teacher from SAU 57 said he felt the training offered within his cluster will help him achieve.
“It complements the work we’re doing with project based learning to develop authentic projects,” said teacher Jeff Bratz. “That I could work-shop a current project in development with a different angle is beneficial.”
Regardless of the specific discipline within CTE, Soroko said the idea is to continue to provide opportunities to bring teachers together.
“Teachers tend to work on islands,” she said. “We need to talk standards and deconstruct our current assessments…The future of CTE education is very much in the hands today’s incoming current teachers.”
It is an exciting challenge many CTE teachers are ready to face, according to Robin Bartnicki of the Manchester School of Technology, who said she was very pleased at what she took away from workshops earlier this year. In particular, she said she now understood how to help students move diagonally down toward DOK 4.
“It’s more important to have the kids think through complex ideas versus difficult ideas,” she said. “I’m going to go back to my class and tell them what I’ve learned today, show them the materials and tell them that they need to be part of the process.”