Washougal School District celebrated Career and Technical Education Month®, with a look at how our CTE teachers and programs continued to thrive during remote learning.

Don O`Brien, WHS Metals Technology and Small Engines Instructor, said he is doing many of the same things he has always done for class demonstrations, but differently.  “Now I am alone in the shop making videos. I must admit some of this has been a struggle for me and I have spent more time preparing than I have in my entire career. But I also feel as though I have accomplished so much as a teacher.”

O’Brien has learned new skills to video tape and then edit his class demonstrations for students to watch at home.  He prepared study guides that follow the video as well as an electronic assessment for students to demonstrate what they have learned. “At some point we will be back in school but in the meantime, they are getting the chance to see the shop and tools in the videos,” he said.

A virtual library of video instruction has been created for Metals Manufacturing and Technology, Metals Crafts and Small Engine Repair classes.  “I took my small engine repair students through the process of servicing a lawn mower,” he said. “Some students were able to find a mower at home or a neighbor and put their new skills into practice.”

Projects in metals classes may have a different outcome, but the process is the same, according to O’Brien.  “What had been built with sheet metal using full size patterns are now created out of cardboard, poster paper, carpeting, it doesn’t really matter,” he said. “I explained to my students that it makes no difference what the medium is.  You still take a drawing and transfer the information to the material and build the project. It is all done the same way; you just need to know how to read a working drawing and create the pattern.  Considering where we are, lessons are going quite well. I see students making an effort and really giving it a try.”

The videos O’Brien has produced will continue to benefit students, even after distance learning is over.  “If someone missed seeing a demonstration on the forging process, I would need to find time to show them on their own,” he said. “Now I’ll be able to have them watch the video and they will be caught up.” Students can also use these videos as review opportunities.

O’Brien admits that it can be challenging to get students’ focus. “But for the most part they are doing pretty darn good,” he said.  “As teachers we can’t see what is actually going on at home. Maybe there are a bunch of siblings and even parents that need to use the internet for classes and work.  I need to look at the big picture out there so I have slowed instruction down a bit so kids can stay on track and be successful.”

O’Brien hopes his students learn from his classes that to be successful in life, you may have to reach out and find people to help you. “I am a great example with many people helping me,” he said.  “WHS teacher Jim Jay Bennett has been a huge help as I work to understand and use video technology. I have even asked the students for help with some technical issues.  They are happy to tell me which button to push if I don’t know.”

“I know this is what we’ve got to do right now, but the students are doing well,” he added. “But I am sure looking forward to when kids come running back through the door.”

WSD has a robust offering of project-based classes and programs which facilitate the teaching of relevant skills and knowledge for learning, career and life.  Learn more about them at https://www.washougal.k12.wa.us/cte/