CATEC Continues to Make Academic Integration a Priority

As Career and Technical Education evolves, Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) is proud of its integration of academic courses into its CTE line up. For the 2021-2022 school year, CATEC will be offering nine academic courses, expanding students’ ability to take CATEC trade classes and earn core high school academic credits simultaneously. By doing so, CATEC is increasingly becoming a one-stop shop for high school credits.

CATEC is offering robust education opportunities, with options that align with Albemarle County Public Schools 7 Pathways to Lifelong Learner Competencies. Throughout its academic courses, students exercise their research, analytical, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and civic skills. Not only are students getting trade education when they attend CATEC, they are also learning how all aspects of education are interconnected and collaborative. While CATEC has strived in the 2020-2021 school year to offer academic courses, additional offerings for the 2021-2022 school year will further the goal by focusing on Math and Science. These new classes include Math Algebra, Functions, and Data Analysis (AFDA); Geometry; Biology II; and Physics. Director Stephanie Carter says, “This is an exciting time for CATEC because it makes learning relevant. By creating opportunities for our students to dig deeper into the trade they love while accessing an academic course, CATEC students make connections that ignite the fires of curiosity and truly engage in their learning.”

AFDA and Geometry will be taught by a new Math Integration Specialist who will work collaboratively with CATEC’s Building Trades and Electricity Instructor Sid Trimmer. These skilled trade courses are expanding to two-year programs, which allows students to earn math credits upon completion of their first year of their skilled trade classes. AFDA will embed into the Electricity course. Students will use algebraic functions and analyze data to solve practical problems related to installing and maintaining residential, commercial, and industrial electrical systems. Geometry will embed into the Building Trades I curriculum. Students will use geometric concepts and formulas to solve practical problems related to the core building trades of masonry, carpentry, electricity, and plumbing. They can also earn verified credits through a passing score on the Geometry Standards of Learning (SOL).

Trimmer will also embed Physics into his Electricity course. Students who successfully complete the two-year course earn their Physics credit in addition to their elective credits. Students will investigate how the science concepts of physics apply to the fundamental theories of electricity, electromagnetism, magnetism, and photons using Ohm’s law, Kirchoff’s law, Coulomb’s law, and the laws of thermodynamics.

Two CATEC Health and Medical Sciences Academy programs will offer science credits through their trade curricula. Biology II: Anatomy and Physiology will be embedded within Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Veterinary Science classes. EMT Instructor Cat Gardner is a former Biology teacher and will teach students the organization of the human body, including the purpose and features of all body systems. Gardner says, “It makes sense to give students credits for Biology II: Anatomy and Physiology because the EMT curriculum already covers the majority of the Bio II content.  It’s great to be able to add some enrichment activities to EMT and award additional credit for their work.” Veterinary Science students will be taught by veterinarian Dr. Kim Smyth and will learn the organization of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, including the purpose and features of all body systems, focusing on mammals. Both classes will conduct laboratory investigations to support their learning.

The integration of academic coursework into trades programming began in the 2020-2021 school year when English 11, English 12, US Government, and Personal Finance/Economics integrated trade-specific issues into their curricula offered at CATEC. English 10, 11, and 12 Instructor Megan Panek pushes into Cosmetology I, allowing students to complete their English assignments in their trade class. Panek works collaboratively with Cosmetology I Instructor Karen Brown to embed English reading, writing, communication, and research strands of the SOLs into projects pertaining to the Cosmetology industry. For one project, students created “how-to” blogs where they explained a process they learned through their Cosmetology hands-on skills training. In the 2021-2022 school year, CATEC will offer English 10, which will integrate with Cosmetology I and Culinary Arts I. Like English 11 this year, Panek will push into these two classes and students will complete most of their English assignments in their trade class. Students will prepare for the SOL Reading Test and Work Keys Writing Test to be administered in the spring. Panek looks forward to being able to expand her collaborative work with the Culinary Arts I Instructors. She says, “When students can connect what they are researching, reading, and writing with their trade class, it makes the learning deeper and more relevant. I can’t wait to work with Culinary I students on everything from a Culinary blog to creating gardening journals to reading memoirs from famous chefs.”

 This year CATEC has also offered stand-alone academic classes in order to reduce barriers for students to participate in a trade class. Offering an English 12/US Government collaboration, as well as bringing Personal Finance/Economics into the building, has allowed more students to take CATEC’s trade courses, freeing space in their schedules to take these electives while earning required credits along the way. English 12/US Government is an interdisciplinary, project-based class that incorporates English reading, writing, research, and communication skills into US Government curriculum. Though not embedded in a trade class, it emphasizes helping students understand their rights and responsibilities as US citizens, how government systems impact their daily lives, and how the media influences politics and society as a whole. Students learn how they can affect change through political engagement. For example, Panek works with US Government Instructor David Topper to have students, who are studying the legislative branch, write to a local representative or elected official to propose a solution to a current social issue that impacts them.

Additionally, CATEC began offering Personal Finance/Economics as a stand-alone class this past year. Students learn how to navigate the financial decisions they face and to make informed decisions related to career exploration, budgeting and banking, and living as adults. In addition to developing personal finance skills, students have the opportunity to earn the Working in Support of Education (W!SE) Financial Literacy credential.

As CATEC continues to evolve, it keeps in mind the Profile of a Virginia Graduate. The model emphasizes four core areas of academic experience: career exploration, workplace skills, content knowledge, and community engagement and civic responsibility. CATEC has longstanding success in addressing career exploration and workplace skills with its students. With the addition of nine academic courses, it now adds content knowledge and community engagement and civic responsibility to its roster of successful academic experiences.

CATEC is a regional technical education center that helps high school students and adults obtain the jobs they seek. Students have opportunities to practice hands-on and work-based learning activities alongside academically-driven curricula. CATEC prides itself on its built-in value, equity-based programs, and contribution to students' learning journeys.