Category Archives: STEM

CareerTech Essential to Meet Workforce Needs

A qualified workforce is critical to the state’s economic well-being and will be vital to its recovery following the pandemic. Oklahoma CareerTech, which has long been a major component of Oklahoma’s economic engine, will play a starring role in this recovery.

Through a network of 399 PK-12 school districts, 29 technology center districts, 13 skills center sites and 32 adult basic education providers, the strengths of Oklahoma’s CareerTech System include accessibility and flexibility.

Through partnerships with business and industry, Oklahoma CareerTech has responded quickly to the state’s immediate workforce needs by providing customized career training in a wide range of industries, including health care, agriculture, aerospace and energy.

Read more in CareerTech State Director Marcie Mack’s guest column in The Journal Record.

CareerTech Champions

Julie Smiley Foster – FFA, HOSA and STEM

CareerTech instructor transitioned from blue coat to white coat.

THEN: The first female to become a national FFA officer. Julie Smiley Foster was a high school student in Mount Vernon, Washington, when she enrolled in agricultural education and joined her local FFA chapter. FFA is the CareerTech student organization aligned with agricultural education.

It was there she learned numerous life skills from her instructor and chapter adviser. That was back in the 1970s, but Smiley Foster still recalls how he coached her and helped her win the state’s public speaking contest.

“To be able to speak to people I know and don’t know, whether planned or unplanned, has been a gift,” she said.

It was a gift that kept giving after high school. A few weeks after graduation, Smiley Foster was elected FFA state president, the first female to serve in that capacity. It wasn’t her only first, however. She continued to shatter glass ceilings in college when she was elected Western Region vice president for the national organization – the first female to hold a national office.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism (with a double major in agriculture science and journalism) from Texas A&M University and a master’s in counseling from Midwestern State University.

In addition to helping run the family farm for more than two decades, Smiley Foster taught junior high and high school science. She said she uses many of the skills she gained from FFA both in and out of the classroom. In addition to public speaking, she learned

  • How to plan, organize and follow through to produce successful events.
  • The importance of saying thank you and the value of writing thank-you notes.
  • How to speak to adults in business and how to remember names.

NOW: A National Board Certified instructor at Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s Biosciences and Medicine Academy. She teaches biomedical innovation and honors anatomy and physiology. Smiley Foster is an adviser for HOSA Future Health Professions, the CareerTech student organization that aligns with health careers education.

“CareerTech education is hands-on, problem-solving, skills-based and how-to-get-a-job training,” she said. “My purpose is to prepare students for the marathon of acquiring a career as a health professional.”

She said the professionalism she learned in the ag classroom is also a big part of her biosciences classroom. Smiley Foster said she hopes she’s a bit like her FFA adviser, Mr. Howell, who required the best of his students.

Link to National FFA podcast celebrating Julie Smiley Foster as first national officer

CTSO officers attend CareerTech University

Oklahoma CareerTech student organization state officers recently attended CareerTech University at Camp Tulakogee in Wagoner, Oklahoma. Officers from all seven co-curricular CTSOs attended the conference, where they learned about goal-setting, time management, teamwork and presentation skills.

At CTU each year, officers participate in training sessions and group activities to help them lead their organizations. They also learn more about the Oklahoma CareerTech System during the event. CTU provides the student leaders an opportunity to come together and share ideas about how they can best represent the CareerTech System as a whole.

CareerTech employee receives Air Force Association STEM education award

Oklahoma CareerTech’s STEM program manager recently received an award for her work promoting STEM education.

The Air Force Association Central Oklahoma Gerrity Chapter presented Tonja Norwood with the Gerrity Chapter President’s STEM Education Award. Pictured are, from left, Col. Michael Tiemann, vice commander of the 72nd Air Base Wind; Norwood; and Janelle Stafford, AFA Central Oklahoma Gerrity Chapter president.

The Air Force Association Central Oklahoma Gerrity Chapter presented Tonja Norwood with the Gerrity Chapter President’s STEM Education Award.

Norwood has been the program manager for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education at the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education since 2018. She previously served as an information technology program specialist in ODCTE’s Business, Marketing and Information Technology Education Division.

“Tonja has been instrumental in expanding STEM educational opportunities across the state,” said Marcie Mack, CareerTech state director. “Her dedication and leadership are vital to the success of our students, educators and future workforce. Tonja is very deserving of this award and recognition from AFA. We are honored to partner with them for the betterment of our state.”

Oklahoma CareerTech has partnered with the AFA Central Oklahoma Gerrity Chapter to provide CyberPatriot and StellarXplorers, providing classroom space and equipment, volunteer instructors and more, said Janelle Stafford, president of the chapter.

“Because of CareerTech’s involvement, we have had a much wider and more pervasive reach for both programs,” Stafford said. “Tonja has been at the very heart of all of this with our chapter. She knows these programs inside and out. She put in the time to get both programs certified as curriculum for Oklahoma Promise credits. Most recently, she undertook the certification training for the STK software used in StellarXplorers just so she would understand it better — not an easy thing to do!”

Norwood is also leading an effort to establish a train-the-trainer summer camp for StellarXplorers and is involved in both CyberPatriot and StellarXplorer student camps this summer, Stafford said. The AFA chapter wanted to do something to show its appreciation for Norwood’s support, so it created the Gerrity Chapter President’s STEM Education Award, Stafford said.

“With the support of Tonja and CareerTech, the Gerrity Chapter will continue to grow STEM education in our state and invest in our future workforce,” she said.

About Oklahoma CareerTech

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 59 campuses, 399 PK-12 school districts, 13 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult basic education service providers.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

CareerTech student chosen as 2021 Presidential Scholar

An Oklahoma CareerTech student is one of two state students chosen as 2021 Presidential Scholars.

Sean Kuehn of Sand Springs is among 161 high school seniors in the 57th Presidential Scholar class who are being recognized for their accomplishments in academics, the arts and career and technical education fields.

Kuehn is a senior at Charles Page High School. He is the national president of Technology Student Association, a former state president of the Oklahoma Technology Student Association and a national champion in Prepared Speech. TSA is a CareerTech student organization affiliated with science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

Kuehn serves on Oklahoma CareerTech Director Marcie Mack’s Student Advisory Committee and Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s Student Advisory Council. Earlier this year, he was one of two Oklahoma students chosen represent the state during the 59th annual United States Senate Youth Program Washington Week.

Purple Ducks place second in national space challenge

CareerTech represented TWICE in StellarXplorers VII top 10.

Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s Purple Ducks beat out 209 teams from across the country at the national StellarXplorers VII High School Space Challenge.

(L-R): Bryan Kitzrow, Sean Rice, Renardus Herholdt, Samual Doerflinger (Team Captain), Clark Howard & Charles Koutahi

StellarXplorers is an Air Force Association program designed to inspire students to pursue education and careers in STEM fields that use space system engineering.

During the competition, teams defined orbits and spacecraft components and launched vehicles to meet a set of mission requirements. The students had to choose where to launch from, what equipment/sensors to choose for the payload while staying within the weight and cost constraints, and what orbit to select for the satellite to optimize its objective. The scenario used actual “real-life” situations, numbers, and constraints. Teams also gave a presentation to a panel of experts.

While preparing for and participating in the challenge, students develop skills such as teamwork, time management, communication, conflict resolution, leadership, risk assessment, critical thinking and relevance. They use problem solving-methods with complex open-ended situations.

The Purple Ducks team members were Sean Rice, Renardus Herholdt, Sam Doerflinger, Clark Howard and instructors Bryan Kitzrow and Charles Khoutai. The Oklahoma City students finished just a few points behind the Africanized Killer Bees, which represented Aurora Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol, from Portland, Oregon.

Charles Khoutai said teams get to work with STK, a software platform that allows students to analyze the complex missions and operations in space.

“We never know what skills will open doors to for our students,” Khoutai said. “But with the establishment of the newest branch of military, “Space Force,” the relevance of space missions becomes real. 

CareerTech offers a state-approved course that aligns with the competition and includes earning an STK certification in level one and two.

Along with bragging rights, each of Francis Tuttle’s second-place team members received a $2,000 scholarship from the Department of the Air Force STEM program.

“The AFA is very proud of all the students who competed in the StellarXplorers National Finals,” said retired Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright. “Not only were they among the top teams this season, but they competed in the midst of a pandemic.”

Stephen K. Gourley, StellarXplorers program director, said, “These very talented competitors represent the next generation of the technical workforce the nation needs. With the graying and passing of the Apollo-era cadre, the U.S. needs to find and challenge talented students, whoever and wherever they are. We are quite proud of the participants’ demographics, all backgrounds, races and genders drawn from urban, suburban and rural populations.”

Edmond North’s Alex Loney, national TSA vice president

According to the AFA, nearly half of the StellarXplorers are underrepresented minorities and over a third are female. Sponsors of the program include Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Air Force STEM Program and L3Harris, with additional support from the Educational Alliance of Analytical Graphics Inc., Space Center Houston and Coyote Enterprises. 

The Stars AFJROTC team from Edmond North High School also competed in the finals and placed in the top 10. One of the members of that team was Alex Loney, national Technology Student Association vice president: https://tsaweb.org/about/people/national-tsa-officers.  

The CareerTech STEM division partners with the local Gerrity AFA Chapter to support StellarXplorers teams in Oklahoma. The two partners will join forces with the FAA to provide training June 9-10 for teachers interested in competing and/or adopting the course next year. For additional information, visit the Oklahoma CareerTech website at www.okcareertech.org/educators/STEM and select Professional Development.

Related content: Oklahoma News Report story on StellarXplorers

Oklahoma CareerTech students chosen for U.S. Senate Youth Program

Two CareerTech students will represent Oklahoma during the 59th annual United States Senate Youth Program Washington Week.

Sean Kuehn

Sean Kuehn of Sand Springs and Julian Ober of Tulsa will join 102 other national student delegates during the first-ever fully virtual Washington Week, which will be an interactive education and leadership forum.

“We are proud to have Sean and Julian representing Oklahoma at a national level,” said Oklahoma CareerTech State Director Marcie Mack. “Their academic accomplishments and leadership exemplify student excellence and CareerTech’s mission to promote career awareness.”

Kuehn, a senior at Charles Page High School, is the national president of Technology Student Association, a former state president of the Oklahoma Technology Student Association and a national champion in Prepared Speech. TSA is a CareerTech student organization affiliated with science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

Kuehn serves on Mack’s Student Advisory Committee and Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s Student Advisory Council. He has been a member of the Gold Pride Marching Band and National Honor Society and has been captain of the academic team. After graduation, he plans to study political science at Columbia University.

Julian Ober

“OKTSA is proud of Sean and his accomplishments both at the state and national level,” said Tami Redus, Oklahoma TSA state adviser. “He has been a dedicated member since middle school and continues to make the organization proud.”

Ober, a senior at Union High School, is a member of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, the CTSO affiliated with family and consumer sciences education. She has served as a district president in the northeast region of Oklahoma FCCLA.

She is also a member of the Superintendent Student Council Advisory Board and the Student Athlete Advisory Council, is captain of the tennis team and has served as the co-facilitator of the Youth Philanthropy Initiative. She plans to study international affairs and women’s gender and sexuality studies in college.

“Oklahoma FCCLA is incredibly proud of Julian and the leadership she brings not only to her school but also to her community and state,” said Brittani Phillips, Oklahoma FCCLA state adviser. “FCCLA empowers students to sharpen their leadership skills, and she is a fantastic representation of FCCLA. She has embraced our tagline and is showing everyone that FCCLA is the Ultimate Leadership Experience.”

During the program week, Kuehn and Ober will attend online meetings and briefings with senators, the president, a Supreme Court justice, Cabinet agency leaders and members of national media outlets.

Kuehn and Ober will each receive a $10,000 scholarship for undergraduate study for participating in the program. They were selected by Hofmeister after a rigorous application process.

About Oklahoma CareerTech

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 58 campuses, 399 PK-12 school districts, 13 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult basic education service providers.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

About the United States Senate Youth Program

The U.S. Senate created the USSYP in 1962. It has been sponsored by the Senate and funded by The Hearst Foundations since its creation. Its mission, according to its website, “is to provide a yearly opportunity for selected students to gain an in-depth view of the Senate and the federal government overall as well as a deeper understanding of the interrelationship of the legislative, judicial and executive branches.

Oklahoma CareerTech Students, Instructor Win NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing

Nine Oklahoma CareerTech students and one instructor have received the National Center for Women & Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing.

Olga Caulfield, pre-engineering instructor at Moore Norman Technology Center received the Educator Award.

High School Award winners were Emily Dangott, Central Technology Center, Kiefer; Camryn Grabeal, Caddo Kiowa Technology Center, Apache; Madelyn McDonald and Lauren Smith, both Moore Norman Technology Center and both of Moore; Sage Abbot, Moore Norman Technology Center; and Skyler Wright, Southern Technology Center, Ardmore.

Kaylin Charlton, Moore Norman Technology Center, Moore, was an honorable mention recipient for the High School Award.

High School Awards rising stars were Moore Norman Technology Center students Olivia Braley, Norman, and Hannah Sanders and Hana Tafolla, both of Moore.

Award recipients were selected from more than 4,200 applicants from all 50 U.S. states; Washington, D.C.; Guam; Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; U.S. overseas military bases; and Canada. Selections were based on outstanding aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing as demonstrated by computing experience, computing-related activities, leadership experience, tenacity in the face of barriers to access and plans for post-secondary education.

“Encouraging young women’s interest in technology careers is critical: Our workforce needs their creativity and unique perspectives to produce technology that is as broad and innovative as the population it serves,” said NCWIT CEO and co-founder Lucy Sanders.

About Oklahoma CareerTech

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 58 campuses, 399 PK-12 school districts, 13 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult basic education service providers.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

About NCWIT

NCWIT is a nonprofit community that convenes, equips and unites change leader organizations to increase the influential and meaningful participation of girls and women — at the intersections of race/ethnicity, class, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status and other historically marginalized identities — in the field of computing, particularly in terms of innovation and development. Find out more at www.ncwit.org.

CareerTech Champions

Jackson Cejda – Moore Norman Technology Center

From undecided to up-and-coming, this software engineer signs on with Tesla.

Then: An upperclassman at Moore High School suggested his freshman friend try the pre-engineering program at Moore Norman Technology Center. Jackson Cejda said at that time he had no idea what he wanted to do after high school, but he’d heard good things about the program, so he took his friend’s advice and signed up.

Now that he has completed the program, Cejda said he uses the skills he gained to guide his professional development. In pre-engineering, he developed

  • Project-based thinking abilities. Cejda said for the first time, he was able to look at problems from end to end.
  • Critical problem-solving skills.
  • Interpersonal professional skills.

“The skills I learned in pre-engineering are applicable every day of my life,” he said. “In my schoolwork, projects and recently in the hiring process for a full-time job.

Cejda said at Moore Norman he learned various professional skills, including how to work on projects as a team, and how to prepare project reports.

“I had fantastic mentors that spanned over four years,” he said. “I was challenged by the projects, and I came out with real actionable skills I could apply to my personal and professional life.”

Now: Cejda attends the University of Oklahoma and plans to graduate in 2021. He works in OU’s Tom Love Innovation Hub, a digital fabrication lab, where he assists in prototyping for university research projects. He has accepted a job as a software engineer for Tesla in Austin, Texas, after graduation. In his new job, Cejda will help build and test Tesla’s new generation of vehicles.

“The pre-engineering program helped me figure out what I truly wanted to do with my career and empowered me with the ability to actually get it done.”

Jackson Cejda, future software engineer at Tesla

February is Career and Technical Education Appreciation Month

During a year of pandemic changes, the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education kept its focus on helping Oklahomans succeed while adding new programs in response to new needs.

The Oklahoma CareerTech System is celebrating CareerTech Education Month in February. Gov. Kevin Stitt recently issued a proclamation declaring this month as Career and Technical Education Appreciation Month in Oklahoma.

“Oklahoma CareerTech continues to deliver high quality education despite the pandemic. We remain laser-focused on the multiple career paths for students and meeting the workforce needs of businesses and industries in the state,” said ODCTE State Director Marcie Mack. “The work of Oklahoma CareerTech across the state provides meaningful results for Oklahoma’s economy.”

Oklahoma CareerTech expanded its programs in response to the pandemic as it continued its focus on filling skills gaps for both employees and employers in the state.

ODCTE worked with partners to launch several new educational initiatives in 2020, including a new energy career cluster to promote the benefits of pursuing careers in energy; online meat processing courses to fill a workforce shortage in the meat processing industry; and a mobile meat processing laboratory.

ODCTE worked with the University of Oklahoma College of Nursing to revamp a nurse refresher course to get nurses back in the field faster. In addition, technology center nursing students across the state assisted with COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics.

The CareerTech Testing Center worked with the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association to offer certification exams for veterinary assistants and with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to use the Oklahoma Peace Officer Screening and Selection Exam developed by CTTC for OHP Academy applicants.

Oklahoma CareerTech also launched VirtualJobShadow.com to introduce more state students — more than 16,000 in 20 PK-12 and technology center districts — to nontraditional careers. The platform is ideal for schools and students doing virtual and distance learning because it is video-based.

When Oklahoma’s schools pivoted to distance learning in the spring of 2020, instructors in the 29 technology center districts and the 399 PK-12 school districts with CareerTech courses developed ways to help their students continue learning to finish the year. ODCTE offered additional instructional resources and guidance to tech centers and schools to help them with distance learning.

CareerTech students and teachers across the state also donated medical supplies, masks and more to help frontline pandemic workers.

Employees in CareerTech’s 13 skills centers, which operate in Oklahoma’s correctional and juvenile detention facilities, developed new processes that will better serve graduates; reduce barriers to reintegration; and improve communication, teamwork and probability of graduate success.

During a year of pivots caused by the pandemic, Oklahoma CareerTech was able to stay true to its mission of preparing Oklahomans to succeed in the workplace, in education and in life and expand its offerings to meet new needs in new ways.

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 58 campuses, 399 PK-12 school districts, 13 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult basic education service providers.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

CareerTech by the Numbers in Fiscal Year 2020

  • 399 PK-12 school districts with 1,399 teachers and 132,532 enrollments
  • 29 technology center districts with 58 campuses, 1,306 teachers and 310,285 enrollments
  • 37 percent of sixth through 12th grade and almost half of ninth through 12th grade students enrolled in CareerTech courses: agricultural education; business and information technology education; family and consumer sciences education; health careers education; marketing education; science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and trade and industrial education.
  • More than 86,000 students in co-curricular CareerTech student organizations: FFA; Family, Careers and Community Leaders of America; SkillsUSA; Technology Student Association; Business Professionals of America; HOSA; and DECA
  • 18,685 industry-endorsed certificates earned
  • 13 skills centers with 35 teachers and 1,541 enrollments
  • 32 adult basic education providers at 111 sites serving 10,768 students
  • 297 students earning high school diplomas in dropout recovery program
  • 7,295 industries served by business and industry training
  • 1,767 new jobs with training from ODCTE Business and Industry Services Division
  • $390 million secured by state companies in government contracts with help from Oklahoma Procurement Technical Assistance Center
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