For this episode, we are joined by Monique Sabby, a secondary career and technical education (CTE) teacher. As a teacher in the Family and Consumer Science (FACS) Department, she offers elective courses that are rich in authentic learning experiences. She says, “I am teaching employability skills. I’m teaching accountability. I’m teaching teamwork. I’m teaching the innovation—how to be a self-starter, take initiative.”
Join us as we explore the many benefits and opportunities provided to students in CTE courses. Monique is an enthusiastic ambassador for these classes and describes them as “authentic learning classes” that provide “problem-solving in the best form.”
Electives classes reveal the skill sets of some students that might not be obvious in their other classes, helping them see their strengths and affording them opportunities to be of value to their classmates.
Ernie Rambo, from her Education Week article, “Why Electives Matter”
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- The Power of Empowering Students, Part II, with Dr. John Spencer (podcast episode)
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- Engage Students Through Inquiry Learning (article collection)
- Inspire Students With Project-Based Learning (article collection)
- Reimagine Summative Assessments for Increased Student Agency (article collection)
- Girls Who Game: Equity in STEM, with Dr. Kendall Latham (podcast episode)
Career and Technical Education
Career and technical education provides students with pathways to discovering career interests and developing transferable life skills. These opportunities come in the form of both academic courses and extracurricular clubs and teams.
Because CTE students must work together to reach an authentic and common goal, they often form close bonds in their classrooms. Monique Sabby says, “It’s a special, unique, teamwork situation where they do build friendships with people they might not have even known going into the class, and a lot of kids will say at the end, ‘Wow, we’re like a family.'” Monique agrees, adding, “Yeah, we are like a family. That’s for sure.” The following are a few highlights from our conversation:
- About Our Guest: Monique is a secondary career and technical education teacher in the Family and Consumer Science Department of Elk River High School in Minnesota. She was voted the 2022 ISD 728 District Secondary Teacher of the Year. She has coached her culinary arts and management teams to state championships and national ProStart competitions. Last year, Monique received the ACF Minneapolis Chef Chapter Teacher of the Year award.
- Family and Consumer Science: As a FACS teacher, Monique teaches classes like child psychology and development, culinary arts, interior design, consumerism, and personal finance. She says, “A lot of times, people will sum it up as life skills, so skills that will take students to the next level.”
- Career and Technical Education: While Monique teaches in the FACS department, she says, “First and foremost, I am a CTE, a career and technical ed teacher.” She adds, “I am teaching employability skills. I’m teaching accountability. I’m teaching teamwork. I’m teaching the innovation—how to be a self-starter, take initiative. So yeah, I think that it all fits under that umbrella of career and technical education. Along with that, too, we have our business. We have our auto. We have industrial technology. . . . They’re the authentic learning classes.”
- Student Opportunities: CTE classes offer students pathways to careers. In Monique’s case, she can offer students authentic learning experiences in a commercial kitchen and hallway café in her school. She describes it as “a full, licensed, commercial kitchen that our students get to work in.” In fact, students can use their experiences in high school to earn industry certification.
- Authentic Experiences: Monique says that authentic learning comes naturally in her classes. She says, her students “know there is a capstone. The capstone is: Can we open a functioning restaurant, and in the end, can we make a profit?” To accomplish this, her students must start with a mission, vision, and goals. Then, they must determine which job will fit each student best before putting their plan into action. Throughout the process, Monique says her students are “using their critical thinking skills” to figure out how to make a profit. “It’s problem-solving in the best form,” she says.
- Developing Soft Skills: The benefits of CTE courses go beyond the outcomes listed on a course syllabus. Monique says, “They are working on their soft skills. They’re working on communication. They’re working on teamwork. They’re working on leadership. They’re working on all of these core things that I know when they leave my class, they’re going to be a standout,” says Monique. She adds, “We have national exams that the students take to be certified, but truly what they’re leaving with is just that sense of the employability skills. I’m a good human. I made a memory. I’m a part of a team. It’s like the heart of what I would like to think school is—building those bonds with each other.”
- Recruiting Students: Because most CTE classes are electives, these teachers need to draw in students to their program. Monique says that a successful program will naturally attract more students. “I think other students say, ‘I want to be part of that,’” says Monique. A strong program also becomes appealing when participating students feel connected.
- Extracurricular Opportunities: In addition to the competition culinary and management teams that Monique coaches, there are many other academic clubs available to students in schools. These may include options like the Future Educators Club, debate, speech, business clubs like DECA, computer science club, FFA, robotics, school news programs, marching band, and many more. Monique describes these options as “opportunity after opportunity for students at the high school level to find their passion and take it to the nth degree.”
If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:
- What is CTE?
- What CTE courses are offered in your school district?
- What types of authentic learning opportunities can students experience in CTE courses?
- What skills can students develop beyond academic standards when participating in authentic learning?
- What draws students to CTE courses?
- What nonathletic extracurricular opportunities exist in your district?
- How might you get more students to take advantage of CTE courses in your school or district?