Melanie Stefanowicz Director’s Message – June, 2020

Greetings!

When the world changes, you adjust.

Until now, that was a lesson largely learned from history. The year 2020, however, has been a time of great change that has tested our mettle as a nation, a state, and a community. The impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is far-reaching and significantly impacts every aspect of our way of life, including our way of work, our way of taking care of our families, even our way of educating our students. This is truly a time of disruption that is the impetus for transformation and transformative thinking.

When Governor DeSantis declared the State of Emergency and issued the order for quarantine, the role of education remained essential. And, while the traditional brick and mortar delivery model was deemed unsafe, local school personnel were acutely aware of the need to continue educating our students. Change was imminent and teachers and administrators were entering new territory as they swiftly worked to redefine the instructional model.

What would teaching and learning look like during this time of disruption? How would we re-engage our students in the educational process? How do we provide the needed competency-based, practical instruction to career and technical education (CTE) and adult education students in a relevant way?

These are questions teachers and administrators had to quickly resolve in order to support students in achieving their goals. CTE and adult education teachers accustomed to instructing students in classroom environments that mirror industry had to reimagine and refine their teaching strategies in ways that would retain students using a virtual learning management systems (LMS). All the while, ensuring industry standards and competencies were being met.

Our teachers stepped up to the challenge with energy and enthusiasm. Imagine teaching knife skills to culinary students or laying brick or block to the line to masonry students or phlebotomy to practical nursing students when the only teaching tools available are web conferencing platforms and learning management systems.

But, our teachers did it and successfully supported our students in completing their programs. And through this process, we learned that our students embrace flexibility in the teaching model and “anytime, anywhere” access to their coursework. The world changed and we adapted in ways that will foster a redesign of our teaching model going forward.

The events surrounding the shutdown also shed a positive light on the essential nature of careers for which we prepare our students through our workforce education programs in Orange County Public Schools and Orange Technical College. Our career pathways provide students opportunities to earn the needed credentialing to enter careers in high-demand, high-wage industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, supply chain logistics, construction, networking and cybersecurity, engineering, finance and entrepreneurship, and automotive and diesel mechanics.

During this period, we worked to continue to provide our local workforce with a talent pipeline of essential workers needed during this period. This is a commitment we made to our business partners and one we strive to honor through our hard work and dedication to our community.

As I worked alongside Dr. Armbruster during my tenure with the School District of Osceola County, I learned a valuable lesson from him: change is constant so learn to embrace it. In these challenging, changing times, I am confident that our teachers, administrators, and staff will continue to adjust to the environment in creative ways that will continue to ensure our students graduate prepared to enter the competitive workforce.

I am honored to take the torch from Dr. Armbruster and will work to carry forward CTE’s mission of ensuring every student graduate future ready.

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