Redefining career and technical education for students of all ages

 

Cindy Arnold

Battle Ground Public Schools Director of Career and Technical Education Cindy Arnold

September 27, 2022

 

Perhaps you took a shop class or home economics in high school, or possibly middle school. You might be familiar with the term “vocational education,” or “voc ed.” But how many of us started building skills for the workforce when we were still in primary school?

Over the course of her career, Cindy Arnold has come to view what’s now known as career and technical education, or CTE, as a continuum that begins early. Arnold’s own work experience spans the private sector to kindergarten through community college education. And now Battle Ground Public Schools’ director of career and technical education is in a position to implement CTE classes, programs and principles that benefit students of all ages.

“We should be providing a wide range of learning experiences for all of our students, spanning many different career tracks, fields and industries,” said Arnold. “This type of learning should not be reserved for CTE and seventh through 12th grades alone.”

When she was principal at Captain Strong Primary, she implemented a leadership program to help her young students develop their skills. They acted as greeters as their peers entered the building in the morning, led assemblies, oversaw aspects of their classrooms, served as recess monitors and even participated in teacher interviews. The result: Captain Strong was named a School of Distinction by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the school’s scores on standardized math and reading scores increased.

In her current role, Arnold launched middle-school CTE programs by creating design modeling and robotics classes that pair woodworking with science, technology, engineering and math (also known as STEM). All six of the district’s middle schools now offer this successful program.

Arnold also developed several new classes and programs at the high school level, including an HVAC, plumbing and electrical program; computer programming classes; and math for health care professionals, a unique offering in the state of Washington. In addition, Arnold created Battle Ground Public Schools’ STEM strategic plan, which has since been used as a model for other districts.

Recently, Arnold was named the Association for Career and Technical Education’s multi-state Region V Administrator of the Year. She is one of five finalists for the 2023 national title, which will be announced on Nov. 30, 2022. The award recognizes administrative CTE professionals at the school, district, county, state or federal level who have demonstrated leadership in ensuring teacher and student success and have made significant contributions toward innovative, unique and effective career and technical education programs.

For Arnold, CTE learning is fundamental. “Students should be learning how to work together; problem solve together, be creative together and learn how that connects outside of school,” she said. “What students learn in school is important, but we also need collaboration and connection to our businesses and the world.”

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