I began my career in education in 1976 as a high school vocational home economics educator. Today the term “vocational” has been replaced with career and technical education (CTE) and home economics is often called family and consumer science (FACS). I was also qualified to teach language arts for grades nine through 12 and I clearly remember my principal commenting “what an odd combination of credentials!” In the 1970s, the CTE curriculum was completely separate from the “academic” curriculum that included English, mathematics, science, and social studies.
Throughout the 1980s I taught composition and literature for grades nine through 12. Though my principal may have thought my dual career interests were strange, I believe my training and experience as a CTE educator enhanced my teaching practice in the language arts classroom. My eleventh graders wrote “I-Search” papers about their future career aspirations. My creative writing students wrote poems and stories about chemistry, aviation, architecture, and even electric circuits. They were engaged, enthusiastic writers and year after year, the school literacy magazine they published received the Highest Award given the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
In 1993, I left the classroom to work for the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) as part of the School Improvement and Accreditation Team (SIAT). I was enthusiastic about helping develop and implement and a statewide initiative for school improvement. By this time, research was being published showing that career interest inventories and job readiness training increased secondary students' engagement. I knew from personal experience that linking students' career interests and future goals to their classroom work would enhance the quality of their learning experience.
During my 14 years at the KSDE, CTE programs included rigorous academic components and plans for postsecondary education. The core academic subjects were integrated into career academies and tech prep. New initiatives such as school-to-work (S2W) programs connected education and the workplace. CTE programs started with a specific career focus, such as health sciences, business, or technology and became project-based with outcomes that align to skills needed for the workplace. The importance of academic planning became a greater focus and Kansas began looking at computer assisted guidance systems (CACGS), such as the Kuder Career Planning System® (KCPS). After learning about the KCPS and Kuder in 2007, I joined the company one year later as a field trainer.
In Reflect, Transform, Lead: A New Vision for Career Technical Education, CTE State Directors state their support for “high-quality, dynamic CTE programs that actively partner with employers and lead students to further education and careers.”
The KCPS aligns perfectly with this vision. Today, my work helps provide a resource “to raise student aspirations and to provide career options to students and adults through self-assessment and education.”
Bauer, R., & Michael, R. (1993). They’re still in school: Results of an intervention program for at-risk high school students. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta.
National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education, Reflect, Transform, Lead: A New Vision for Career Technical Education.