As classes run virtually and less than half of CCHS students attend school on campus, the Career Technical Education (CTE) Department has faced the challenge of having their students obtain their certifications virtually, which has become a serious undertaking.
CCHS’s CTE Department consists of eight tracks that lead students to obtain their industry certifications. These tracks include Auto Maintenance and Light Repair, Computer Science, Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), Drafting, Early Childhood Education, Film, Journalism and Video Production. Of the eight tracks, seven of them have been able to allow their students to work virtually, while still obtaining or working toward their industry certifications.
For DECA students, it has been an adjustment to gain their certifications through an online platform. Accounting students typically take the QuickBooks Desktop Certified User exam; however, that software is currently only available on CCHS computers. They have had to switch to the QuickBooks Online User version instead.
DECA students have taken their exams digitally before, but due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the setting will be different this year.
“There is no doubt that certification will be a challenge this year.”DECA sponsor Regina Ferreira
“There is no doubt that certification will be a challenge this year. Thankfully, Certiport—the company that offers software certification—is continuing to offer virtual certification opportunities, but the catch is that for every ten candidates, one proctor is needed,” DECA sponsor Regina Ferreira said. “In a normal setting, an entire class would be able to sit for the certification test with one proctor. The other challenge is that certification spots are limited. Online testing appointments must be scheduled at least a month in advance.”
Although DECA is faced with the need to take alternative tests and adjust to the CDC guidelines, the program is continuing to succeed virtually. They have adapted to the new requirements of the program and have gained valuable skills in the process.
“’Pivot’ is the name of the game and whether it’s certification or competition, our students have had to adapt to constantly changing situations and last-minute directives,” Ferreira said. “The good news is that with the rapid pace in which technology is advancing, one of the greatest lessons our students can take with them is that of adapting and learning how to figure things out. If we have to look at the bright side of our current situation, it’s that we’ve built a little resiliency and understanding in how we approach life’s obstacles.”
Unlike DECA and the other six CTE programs, Early Childhood Education (ECE) faced a different obstacle. This program requires students to have documented hours working in-person with preschool students and therefore could not just remain online.
“My entire program has been restructured to the virtual model.”ECE instructor Deborah Covard
The goal of the ECE program is for students to obtain their Child Development Associate (CDA) and Early Childhood Professional Certificate (ECPC). The program is structured with five levels: ECE 1, ECE 2 and 3 (taken at the same time), ECE 4 and Directed Studies. Students typically receive their CDA and ECPC by the end of ECE 4.
The ECPC tests are paper-based and must take place in person. CDA exams consist of three components: an in-depth portfolio, an in-person exam and an in-person observation. ECE instructor Deborah Covard has had to adjust the program to meet the needs of her students and the pandemic.
“We have scheduled assessments off-campus as well as the required CDA observations on campus. My entire program has been restructured to the virtual model,” Covard said. “Everything that we would do hands-on has been changed. It has been extremely difficult as this program is mostly hands-on, so making those changes, trying to demonstrate certain concepts and transfer that virtually seems impossible sometimes… but I do my best to make it work.”
As Covard had to adjust her program, she encouraged her students to return to campus if possible, as this would allow them to obtain their hours and build their portfolios for their industry certifications.
Students who have returned for ECE have found the experience to be positive, as they are able to work hands-on with the students in The Littlest Cowboys Preschool located right on campus.
“I came back to school because I missed being face-to-face with teachers and students and, of course, I missed being with The Littlest Cowboys,” sophomore Emily Dolin said. “I enjoy working in the preschool because I have always loved being around children and guiding them. Being back in school, I can connect with the children better [than] I ever could have through a computer screen.”
Although it has not been easy to convince students to return, Covard has made it her mission to bring her students back so that they can become industry certified in ECE. Seeing students come back to campus has not only excited her, but brought lots of joy to The Littlest Cowboys as they meet their new student teachers.
“I am thrilled that students are coming back on campus,” Covard said. “The experience they get in-person does not compare to what we do virtually. Everything they are learning is then coupled with the hands-on experience and makes the class so much more enjoyable. Our Littlest Cowboys are also so happy to see our student teachers returning, as they also benefit from having them here.”
Photo by Arielle Kraus