Today’s career and technical education (CTE) instructors face a variety of challenges. For many new CTE instructors, it’s a matter of establishing a program and getting it off the ground. However, it can be just as difficult to revive and improve an established program that’s underperforming.
That’s the situation Dean Lepkowski found when he took over the Engineering Technology program at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School (“Monty Tech”), “an independent regional vocational-technical school” located in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, that serves “more than 1,400 students from eighteen cities and towns.”
Monty Tech’s Engineering Technology program “offers students a solid foundation in the technical skills needed to support design, testing and manufacturing of products, systems and devices used in every industry and household in the world.”
It’s based upon a partnership with Project Lead The Way, a STEM program designed to “prepare students for college-level work and culminate with a student assessment, which colleges and universities can use to determine if a student earns college credit.”
Unfortunately, what Lepkowski found was that, historically, most of Monty Tech’s Engineering Technology program students were not passing the assessment and therefore not earning college credit. According to Lepkowski, only about one-third of Monty Tech students were passing the assessment when he took over.
He knew that needed to change. Fortunately, Lepkowski has more than two decades of experience as a CTE instructor, including significant experience teaching subjects like electrical, robotics, and automation. He realized students needed a stronger focus on acquiring and retaining core knowledge in a variety of technical topic areas.
Specifically, he believed his Engineering Technology students could benefit from the same resource he had used with great success in other programs: Amatrol’s comprehensive eLearning library. Depending upon the projects his students were working on, Lepkowski would assign Amatrol eLearning modules on topics such as electrical, PLC programming, and more.
Lepkowski’s students embraced Amatrol eLearning with enthusiasm, and it has paid off. According to Lepkowski, “eLearning opened their eyes. It connected it all.” In fact, “in the last two years, 100% of our kids” passed the assessment and earned college credit. You can’t ask for better results than that.
What Lepkowski did not expect was how Amatrol’s eLearning would ignite a desire for learning in many of his students: “some of my overachievers that want more…I can send them to parts of the (eLearning) library that we might not be hitting on but would pertain to a project they’re working on. I’ve had kids that want to go after it that’ll ask me if they can open up and do some of that work on their own, which typically I’ve never really had that before.”
Lepkowski believes more instructors and their students could benefit from Amatrol’s eLearning. “I’ve been teaching for a total of 20 years now, and by far (Amatrol’s eLearning library) pretty much puts together everything I’ve encompassed over the 20 years. I think every teacher has been looking for something like this.”
Indeed, Lepkowski appreciates that Amatrol’s eLearning gives instructors much-needed flexibility: “another key thing with Amatrol’s eLearning is that a lot of us are short-staffed. Sometimes eLearning gives you that break or extra teacher you need, because you can facilitate that and kids can still be learning while you’re doing something else. Also, if kids are absent, they can still get the work if they need to. There are so many advantages to it.”
You can read more about Monty Tech’s state-of-the-art Automation, Robotics and Mechatronics (A.R.M.) lab in this article from the Athol Daily News. You can also hear from Dean Lepkowski directly and see his students learning hands-on skills in the lab in the following video:
About Duane Bolin
Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer in the technical training solutions market.