I think we can agree that if you had asked anyone six months ago if we would be in the situation we are in right now with a stay-at-home order, social-distancing practices and school buildings closed, every one of us would have said, “No!”
If you had asked us to dream up what it might be like to live through a global pandemic, we might not have had a clue where to start the description, but here we are with the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Each month, I am tasked with writing something you might find intriguing and that helps readers understand more about career-technical education and what places like Tolles Career & Technical Center offer our community in terms of education, resources and long-term impact on our region.
This month, writing an article that does not somehow address this strange place we find ourselves in did not seem right. This article forces me to put my money where my mouth is.
For months, I have been writing about how career-technical education provides real-world, authentic experiences, as well as problem-solving, leadership and creative thinking that might not be found in traditional classrooms. I also have been challenging our community to tackle the concept that a four-year degree is the only path to success.
So let’s look around at our essential workers in the midst of the coronavirus crisis: first responders (yes, we train for that), nurses (yep, we set the stage for this path), pharmacists (yes, we teach techs), marketing and logistics (yep, we’ve got that) and IT support, programming, design and cybersecurity (indeed, we have that, too).
The stay-at-home order that went into effect March 23 even makes it permissible to ensure your pets get proper veterinary care, and, yes, we build the foundation for that, too.
In times of abundance or in challenging times, the amazing variety of career pathways needed to keep our economy running grows from career-technical education. Whether a graduate enters directly into the workforce or goes on to additional education, real-world education is just that — real world.
Career-technical work is the foundation we are all counting on, each and every day, but especially during these challenging days.
If you put a problem in front of career-technical educators, we will solve it, just like our colleagues around the state who had less than a week to turn a traditional school building into an online-learning platform.
Everything we have known about the tradition of school was tossed in the air, and we were left putting the pieces back together in a different arrangement that would make it work for a time we never have seen. Doing this with reading and math is one thing, but turning welding, engineering, fire/EMS and construction into online courses is something else entirely.
You will not hear me make the argument that what we are doing online could possibly replace what we do with students face to face in labs, but you will hear me saying that all the character traits inherent to quality career-technical education — leadership, critical thinking, collaboration, teamwork, work ethic — have been embodied fully to solve a new problem.
Cosmetology students are making models of the epidermis.
Students in animal management are taking daily tours and learning from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
Culinary students participate in lunch-and-learn sessions to share what they are preparing and cooking at home for their families as they learn new skills virtually.
Students studying computer networking continue their work in the Cisco Networking Academy, and many programs are completing OSHA 10 certification, interview skills and resume-writing practice.
We know that whether we are in a lab or an online environment, we are preparing the future foundation for our economy.
Although this is both the worst of times and the best of times, I am undeniably proud to be an educator today.
I am proud of my colleagues, proud of the leadership I see in our associate schools, of which the Dublin and Hilliard school districts are a part, proud of our staff and absolutely proud of our students and their families.
We are all in this together. #TollesStrong.
Emmy Beeson is superintendent of Tolles Career & Technical Center, which includes students from the Dublin and Hilliard school districts. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.