After serving as a Texas FFA state officer in 2018, Josh Witherspoon joined the iCEV team as a part-time employee for 3 years before taking on the role of content development specialist in 2022. Witherspoon holds a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications from Texas Tech University, in which his experience and proficiency in writing, marketing and CTE allow him to effectively communicate the successes of CTE educators and students and the value iCEV has to offer.
Taking time to learn about and understand the individuals and communities we serve as CTE educators is a critical first step in ensuring impactful CTE education for all. When students enter your classroom, they are walking in as more than just another year of students. Your students come from diverse backgrounds, have unique experiences and challenges in which CTE educators must be attuned to. If CTE educators skip truly understanding their students and their perspective when designing instruction, the program at best will serve some students and at worst, actively harm special populations students.
Special populations students are defined as students who must overcome barriers to reach equity and access to equal opportunity for success in an educational setting. Across the educational landscape systematic oppression exists in such a way many learners feel discriminated against or unsupported because of the standardized strategies many educators employ. However, standardized instruction methods and a one-size fits all approach doesn’t work for many students as they need a more individualized education to reach the same success. To ensure today’s CTE programs don’t fall into this outdated and ineffective cycle, in this blog iCEV will share special populations terms to ensure you as a CTE educator are able to effectively identify and understand every student who walks into your classroom to better meet their individual needs.
Supporting Your Students
The best way to support any special populations student is to do your research as their educator to understand what challenges specific special populations students face. Investing in your knowledge of the students you teach and who they are as individuals offers limitless benefits including healthier learning environments, increased engagement and more opportunity for student success. By researching and learning about strategies used to support special populations groups in your CTE classroom, educators are able to more clearly see how instruction should be differentiated to more effectively reach special populations students and their needs.
After doing your research another impactful way to ensure you as an educator are prepared to best support your students is through professional development. Find professional development opportunities educating teachers on the unique needs of special populations students and that share effective instructional strategies to best serve these students. The educational landscape is constantly changing, and professional development provides teachers with the tools and strategies they need to effectively prepare special populations students with the knowledge and skills to be successful in their future endeavors.
There are numerous ways in which you as a CTE educator can support special populations students in your classroom. The key to understanding your students' needs is being aware of who they are and how they are doing in your class. Special populations students offer immense value to CTE programs as their unique backgrounds and experiences add to the diverse perspectives of today’s classroom and learning experiences.