VTEEA President's Address

Dear current and prospective VTEEA Members:

Our profession is experiencing a bit of an identity crisis. The public, educational leaders, and legislators do not really have a strong grasp of what Technology and Engineering Education is, who Technology and Engineering teachers are, or what these teachers do. This is largely our fault. Since leaving the realm of Industrial Arts we have reached out and jumped onto every bandwagon that has driven by. We rode the modular boxed curriculum trend. We allowed private companies to sell us expensive curriculum. We allowed the Kit Monsters into our classrooms. We pulled in vast amounts of new curriculum courses whenever they popped up. Now we are climbing the STEM and STEAM hills. We have built one of the most robust class lists in all of education.

In our efforts at attempting to be progressive we have lost track of our focus. If you ask any Technology and Engineering teacher what their discipline is about you will get a completely different answer from each one. We have spread ourselves too thin to where there is no consistency in our discipline school by school. We have invested resources and relied on others to provide us with ready-made curriculum. This lack of focus has left pockets of voids of curriculum across the state. While we have been building and adding lengthy lists of trending curriculum, other disciplines have seized the opportunity to snake our traditional curriculum out the back door and claim it as their own. You will now find similar units of bread and butter Technology and Engineering components in Science, Art, Math, and Trade & Industrial classes.

It is time for us as a collective unit to start considering what it is that Technology and Engineering Education should be and what we are going to claim and hold onto for ourselves. History shows that when empires get too big they lose control and collapse in on themselves. We need to focus on what we are good at and make sure it is what we are the best at. We must build ourselves up to where other disciplines would not dare encroach on us. We have to define and strengthen our brand. Choose our best content and hone it to be the spear of our mission. It is ok to let curricular items that do not strengthen us flit away to other disciplines. We do not have to teach it all. What we do need to do is protect what our foundation is built on and repair the cracks.

We are the best teachers in the business. As we know from all of the professional development from the work weeks, there are a lot of educational initiatives out there. Some of these initiatives are where we as a profession have the chance to capitalize and put our curriculum at the top of the mountain. As Technology and Engineering educators we are already experts at many of these “new” initiatives. We have been doing them for years. We are already the educational masters of differentiation, cross curricular lesson planning, flipped classrooms, backwards design, core subject integration with real world application, project and problem based learning, advanced problem solving, and independent learning just to name a few. No one does it as good as we do. All students perform at high levels in our classes. Not many other disciplines can claim this.

I would like to challenge everyone to stop hiding in the shadows of your lab and make yourself known for your expertise in your building and district. Speak up and offer your services to help lead and teach these initiatives to your colleagues. Will this be more work? Of course it will, but in this day it is time for us to prove our worth to those that make the decisions. Our history has been to showcase our products instead of our pedagogy. This gets us an “oh that’s nice keep it up” response. What it does not get us, is respect for what we do. We should be getting a “that’s truly amazing how you are doing that, will you share this with staff” response to our mastery of the educational trade. We as a group are prone to squirrel away in our rooms like happy hermits. As Technology and Engineering programs get shut down or absorbed by other elective curriculum we can no longer afford to hide. We must put ourselves out there to reap the harvest of our knowledge and prove our value to educational policy makers. Show why and how your class is the best thing going on in the building.

I also challenge you to reach out to other Technology and Engineering teachers and network. Without a common language we are week to act when legislative decisions put our profession on the chopping block. The Regional Representatives of the VTEEA have been tasked with establishing and offering more activities (Social and Professional) in your area to help aide with this networking. Please reach out to them or myself to share your ideas on what we should be doing. Your opinions, expertise, and ideas really matter to us. Technology and Engineering teachers are the original Big Idea generators. It is time to get large and in charge of our own destiny instead of letting outsiders steer and decide our fate. Get active and prove yourselves as educational leaders in your school system. Be change agents that do not settle for the status quo.

Ken Noonan
VTEEA President
Dean of Students
Carver College and Career Academy
Chesterfield County Public Schools