ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Students at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) are in for an interesting start to the school year. With classes heavily incorporating hands-on learning, the school has had to get creative to make sure students don’t fall behind while learning online.
The emphasis on hands-on skills training presents an interesting challenge for the school, and teachers like EMT instructor Cat Gardner with a virtual start to the school year.
“It’ll be a challenge to keep the students engaged when we can’t do hands on all the time,” Gardner explained. “We’re coming up with some pretty creative ways to get that done.”
Gardner, a former EMT, knows a thing or two about learning in times of crisis. She was in first responder training in Alexandria during the events of 9/11, and says that “trial by fire,” shaped her approach to the job. Now, the pandemic has once again highlighted the importance of safety in the field.
“They can learn to do the skills in a safe environment so when they do go out and do them for real on an ambulance, in an emergency room, wherever, they’ve had that good training and they know how to be safe,” Gardner explained.
Gardener and the students say they know it will be a challenge.
“We had the meetings with Ms. Gardener and everything, so I felt like I was still there still with like everybody that I knew,” CATEC EMT student Hunter Rose said. “I was kind of able to get through it.”
“This is definitely a hands-on class,” EMT student and teaching assistant Kess Hutchinson explained. “It’s a lot easier when you’re in person and you can just physically see it, physically do it, and ask those questions. Online was definitely kind of a challenge. It took a lot longer to grasp certain concepts and to master certain skills.”
That’s something CATEC hopes to change by incorporating the lessons it learned in the spring. All CATEC students are being supplied with learning tool kits tailored to their individual courses.
“Our auto tech students will all have a miniature engine to be able to work on that we’re going to provide for them,” CATEC Director Stephanie Carter said. “We’re going to send culinary arts students food home. We’re going to send the tools home that they need to be able to cook”
Teachers are also going to be equipped with wearable GoPro cameras for video lessons, providing more accurate educational perspectives in skill videos than if videos were shot from afar.
“We’re just leveraging all those different strategies to make this opportunity as rich and engaging for our kids as possible,” Carter explained. “CATEC is too important for us not to figure this out well.”
CATEC will be holding a virtual town hall for parents and students on August 18 at 6 p.m.