Personalization and Teacher Engagement Play Vital Roles in College and Career Readiness

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College and career readiness has grown to be a hot topic that is on the mind of every educational leader in the nation. But being college and career ready takes more than just career counseling or use of software in the classroom, it takes personalized, differentiated instruction that starts at an early age. Students must understand their unique strengths and interests, and teachers must see themselves as part of the global working world. Innovators in education shared their expertise on preparing students to be ready for the working world in a recent edWebinar.

As students are getting ready to graduate high school, they are usually faced with two questions: “Where are you going to go to school?” and, “What do you want to major in?” They often face these questions without having exposure to career pathways and therefore may choose a career pathway they think they or their parents may like. How do we get started on this conversation earlier so that students are prepared by the time they graduate? Devin Vodicka, Ed.D., Chief Impact Officer at AltSchool, says that if we want students to be successful, we need to find a way to make the learning relevant for every child by building on what’s unique for them and embracing personalized learning.

Both Dr. Vodicka and Ed Hidalgo, Chief of Innovation & Engagement Officer at Cajon Valley USD, agree that individual goals are important for students and for personalized learning. More specifically, Ed says, students should understand their “mission of me” which starts with students understanding their own strengths, interests, and values. Next, they should have exposure to the world of work so they understand the different paths possible for them. Last, they should be able to share their story and respond to the statement: Tell me about yourself. This foundational framework should start in kindergarten so every child can graduate with a mission of me.

Mission of Me from Cajon Valley USD



College and career readiness is not only about students. Teachers cannot help students prepare for the world of work if they do not see themselves as part of the world of work. “If our teachers aren’t engaged, if they don’t see themselves in the path of a growing career, how do we expect them to really see their students and what their future paths are?” Ed asked. Education and the broader world of work need to connect to better prepare students for change on a global scale. When teachers understand their value in the global world of work, they can help students make real-world connections and understand why what they’re learning now is important for their future.

Dr. Vodicka added that teachers play a very active role in student learning and are engaged in inspiring learning from every student—they are not only a content-delivery mechanism. The teacher has a vital role in connecting students with authentic, real-world learning experiences. Teachers are also much more creative, like learning designers, when it comes to personalized learning and genuine needs of the students. For Ed, it’s been exciting to watch early grade level teachers in particular see students through a different lens with the framework used at Cajon Valley, aligning student interests to what’s happening in the classroom, and watching the differentiation emerge from that.

Ed closed by reminding us that career development is a human process, you can’t just put kids on apps, computer programs, or in rotations to learn about career development. It’s a complex journey and the teacher, not just a counselor, is in the best position to have those conversations with students by starting with their strengths, interests and values. “I would hope that every child would graduate knowing their mission of me…imagine if every student could graduate knowing their unique strengths, interests, and values; that they had an elevator pitch around what they care about; that they had an entrepreneurship project; that they understood their possible self and goals for the future…” he said.

This broadcast was hosted by and sponsored by Big Deal Media.

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This article was modified and published by eSchool News.

About the Presenters

Over the past 20 years, Devin Vodicka’s vision for how to drive high-quality student outcomes enabled him to quickly ascend the roles of educator, school principal, district administrator, and superintendent. During his tenure serving Vista Unified’s more than 25,000 students, Devin has earned some of the education industry’s most prestigious awards. Last year, he was named AASA’s “California Superintendent of the Year.” In 2015, he was named ACSA’s “California Superintendent of the Year,” as well as Pepperdine University’s “California Superintendent of the Year.” In 2014, he received Classroom of the Future Foundation’s “Innovative Superintendent of the Year” award. Since joining Vista in 2012, he has been invited to the White House nine times; both in recognition for district-wide achievements and to partner on national efforts with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology, and the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools. As AltSchool’s Chief Impact and Academic Officer, Devin guides the design and strategy of the company’s personalized learning platform, as it prepares the platform for expansion into a growing community of public and independent schools. @dvodicka

Ed Hidalgo is the Chief of Innovation & Engagement Officer (CIEO) with Cajon Valley USD where he drives a strengths-based, data-driven employee culture across the district of 1,800 employees and 17,000 students to drive hope and engagement. Prior to his current role he was the director of the world of work initiative at the University of San Diego Institute for Entrepreneurship in Education where he worked with researchers to design the world of work initiative for the Cajon Valley Union School District. This work reflects the initiatives he led at Qualcomm where he worked in human resources, staffing and government affairs. As senior director of government affairs, he led the development of the Thinkabit_Lab®, a dedicated makerspace providing thousands of students and teachers exposure to technology and the world of work. Prior to this role he led the global contingent workforce and immigration practice which hired more than 20,000 workers globally. He co-founded Career Explorations, a career counseling and coaching practice for employees to drive engagement and career wellbeing. He served as the executive sponsor for Qualcomm’s Workforce Development Labs, an initiative to promote youth and veteran engagement in workforce development through hands-on experienships. He is a member of the Workforce Development Board for the San Diego Workforce Partnership. Learn more on Twitter: @EdHidalgoSD @CajonValleyUSD #CVWoW

About the Host
Dr. Gabe Soumakian is the retired superintendent, League of Innovative Schools, Oxnard, CA. He has been actively involved and presented at numerous leadership organizations, including ACSA, AASA, CSBA, CALSA, Partnership for the 21st Century, TICAL on topics of Personnel, 21st Century Learning, eLearning Summit, Personalized Learning Summit, and Linked Learning Convening. He has served on Future Ready Leaders Panel of Visionary Educators, and the NAF Leadership Fellow. Dr. Soumakian has over 35 years of education experience, including 18 years of high school teaching and coaching. Most recently, Dr. Soumakian serves as the CEO of the Sup Du Jour Consulting Group focusing on College and Career Ready and supporting districts operations cost reduction and optimization strategies. @sup_du_jour

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