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NICE initiative summer boot camps build educators’ expertise

New York Teacher

Sterling Roberson speaks with educators at a boot camp session on Aug. 12
Cara Metz
Sterling Roberson (center), the UFT vice president for career and technical education high schools, speaks with educators at a boot camp session on Aug. 12, anked by David Brady (left) and Mario Minichino of industry partner C-TECH.
This year the union is celebrating the passion and promise of public education. We want all New Yorkers to know about all of the incredible teachers in our schools — including career and technical schools — and to understand it is frontline educators, not corporate “reformers,” who are driving the change our school system needs.

Part of that change is making sure career and technical educators have access to high-quality professional learning opportunities that meet our actual needs as educators — needs only we can identify — and help us meet the diverse needs of the students in our classrooms. That’s why we are working with industry partners including Microsoft, Adobe, the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, LearnKey and C-TECH to provide such opportunities through one of our newest CTE programs, the National Industry Certification for Educators, or NICE, initiative. With NICE, we are providing the professional learning that we need — and we are doing it ourselves.

NICE has been in development for a year, but this summer it took off in a big way with four multi-day “boot camps” in graphic arts, automotive technology, educational technology and information technology offered by the UFT in collaboration with our industry partners. Our goal — a goal I am proud to say we achieved — was to provide 100 career and technical education educators with access to industry-recognized credentials in their related fields and to equip them with the knowledge to help both their colleagues and students also become credentialed.

In addition to this train-the-trainer aspect, NICE also includes a school-based pilot program that will pair selected schools with industry partners to improve students’ access to 21st-century knowledge, skills and credentials.

For teachers like Anthony Dubato, an automotive teacher at Grady HS in Brighton Beach who already has industry credentials, the automotive boot camp we organized with the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association was an opportunity to renew expired certifications and update skills. Dubato also attended, he said, so his school can become certified with the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, an indicator of the high quality of its automotive instruction.

“I’m here because I want to see what’s going on in the world today,” Dubato said. “The technologies and style of teaching that we were once accustomed to have to adapt to the changes in the field and in education.”

“It’s very helpful to break the questions down,” observed Kenny Tamassar, an automotive teacher at Greenpoint’s Automotive HS, attending the same boot camp. Tamassar was reflecting on the test-taking skills the instructor had offered — skills that teachers could use to pass their certification exams but also to pass on to students in their own classrooms.

“By learning ourselves, we can better help our students,” he said. Like all the other educators who attended, Tamassar hopes his students will achieve industry certification while in high school, which he said will make it much easier for them to find work in their field.

Our boot camps didn’t reach only current teachers, but also teachers-to-be. At our telecommunications training in the Bronx, for example, nine student teachers from the Success Via Apprenticeship program came out to hone their skills in network cabling and how to teach it.

“I learned a lot about how I would teach the students,” said Nanda Toramall, a student teacher who decided to pursue a career in telecommunications on the advice of her own CTE teacher at the Academy of Innovation Technology in Jamaica, Queens. “It gave me a chance to be in the students’ shoes if I were to teach this lesson.”

The 100 educators who attended this summer’s boot camps were the first recruits to what we hope will be a growing cadre of industry-trained instructors, and I cannot thank them enough for their participation. I hope many more CTE teachers will come out as we continue to expand the professional learning opportunities available through the program.

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