Western Wayne High School selects computer science for first CTE

Western Wayne High School selects computer science for first CTE

I play

Western Wayne High School plans to launch its first Career Technical Education (CTE) program focused on computer programming and networking.

Certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), the CTE program can prepare students for the workforce straight out of high school with the added advantage CTE can have on a resume, said district STEAM Director Elizabeth Watson.

Both Wayne Highlands and Wallenpaupack school districts have several CTE programs, each with some that are unique to their school. Agreements exist for students in these areas to enroll in a CTE program at one of the other schools, attend classes there, and still receive a diploma from their home high school.

“This will be our first CTE program, which is a great thing for our district,” she said. “It’s something we’ve recognized as something that’s a very important component to offer our students.” They’ve joined a consortium with Wayne Highlands and Wallenpaupack and can now contribute to a CTE four-year course of study unique to Western Wayne.

She said there are very few schools in the state that include computer programming as CTE. “We are very fortunate to have a staff member … Tom Lodini, and he is one of a select few certified computer programming teachers in the state of Pennsylvania,” she said.

PDE generally requires certification for CTE instructors who have equal representation in educational training and work in the industry in which they teach.

While they have other “wonderful technical education teachers” at Western Wayne, she said they lack industry experience. Computer programming as a CTE pathway is very new in Pennsylvania, so to encourage schools to offer it, PDE made an allowance to have a certified teacher with no industry experience.

Lodini, who graduated from Honesdale High School, taught at Western Wayne for many years. He has taught courses in math and computer programming, although the latter is not a CTE approved course. The new course meets PDE standards for CTE.

Before starting CTE, a student could learn computer programming, but lacked the certification that CTE brings to demonstrate to a potential employer that the student is knowledgeable and experienced, she said.

CTE courses, she said, provide industry-recognized credentials that roll into a student’s portfolio and allow them to choose to go straight into the workforce after high school graduation. In the case of Western Wayne’s program, she said, the materials were produced by Cisco Systems, Inc., an industry leader in computer programming and networking training and equipment.

As a benefit to the school district from using Cisco, the company will help find jobs and internships for students who do well. She said the district is partnering with Cisco so it can assure its students that the training will help them join the industry.

While computer programming is part of Western Wayne’s curriculum, networking will be new. Watson said the district chose this area for its CTE because they had a board certified teacher and realized that computer science is a hugely growing industry with lots of jobs.

Starting computer science as their first CTE program also doesn’t require a large financial investment, Watson said. As a result of the COVID pandemic, when school instruction has moved home, students are using district-issued Dell laptops. They partner with both Cisco and Microsoft, which will cover most of the district’s costs for instructional resources.

The district sought diesel mechanics, but that would require an expensive retrofit of the school campus. HVAC was also considered, but both of these areas would also require hiring instructors.

In preparing her students for the future, she said that could mean a four-year college or entering the workforce to make a living doing what they truly love and excel at. “Living specifically in Wayne County and the Western Wayne School District, we really value all the post-secondary opportunities,” Watson said. “We live in a farming community. Things always go hand in hand, so when we talk about machine repair, the technical aspect, we are proud to at least recognize and try to support all the interests of the students.”

She noted that everyone uses technology, including those in agriculture, lawyers, doctors and any career, whether it requires college or not. “Being able to program technology to do what you want it to do, whether it’s in a hospital or a car dealership, that’s a highly marketable skill set.”

Having computer skills in any chosen field is a powerful resume-building tool, she added.

A local CTE advisory committee will meet with a range of stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, students and industry members. Watson works alongside their high school principal Paul Gregorski, Superintendent Matthew Barrett and the school board, she said.

The four-year program will offer an introductory 42-minute class in the first year, open to all students, not just those committed to the CTE program. The second and third years comprise two periods, a consecutive block of classroom time; the fourth year has a block of three periods which includes a potential internship and application of their knowledge.

Choosing to take a CTE program, she said, requires a time commitment and limits students from choosing some other electives.

Choosing computer science for the first CTE was also desirable because it does not duplicate what Wallenpaupack and Western Wayne have; both districts are interested in Western Wayne’s venture as an option for their students, Watson said. The 2024-2025 school year is the first full year for the joint district consortium.

Reflecting on Western Wayne’s first CTE program, Watson commented, “I’m excited about it, I really think it’s a wonderful opportunity to serve our kids and the community.”

Peter Becker has worked at the Tri-County Independent or its predecessors since 1994. Contact him at [email protected] or 570-253-3055 ext. 1588

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *