BEN BARBER CAREER CENTER TECH ACADEMY
After owning a business for 15 years, Cathy Slagle returned to the classroom as an educator at the Ben Barber Career Tech Academy in Mansfield, Texas to share her marketing experience with students looking to enter a competitive and ever-changing industry. Twelve years later, enrollment in Ben Barber’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program has increased, and the district is implementing new resources and building facilities needed to meet the demand and interest in a career-focused program of study.
“In today’s workforce, it’s so important for students to learn from a variety of tools and experiences while they’re still in school,” Slagle said. “As educators, we learn from our experiences and want to share that with students interested in pursuing a similar path so they can succeed and grow personally and professionally in their chosen career."
Ben Barber is one of six high schools within the Mansfield Independent School District, which is home to more than 32,000 students. With a student population of 4,000, the tech academy is one of the first schools in Texas to pull all core technology courses under one roof to accommodate the growing interest in CTE-related courses.
In an effort to enhance the quality of the program, the district is building additional classrooms and labs and has implemented iCEV, an online learning platform that delivers comprehensive CTE resources to students and educators. As a teacher and the school’s Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) advisor, Slagle uses the platform’s many digital resources, video modules and online assessments in her marketing classes.
There’s a growing trend that facilitates the use of technology in a classroom setting. Resources like textbooks are quickly becoming obsolete as students look for alternative ways to learn and engage with the materials assigned. With a digital resource like iCEV, Slagle notes that it’s easy to customize her courses with new and relevant information daily.
“Purchasing textbooks for our students is really going the way of the dinosaur in that by the time they are adopted, purchased and in the students’ hands, they’re already outdated,” Slagle said. “The process takes too long, and in a field like marketing or other CTE industries, time is of the essence because resources and knowledge often change so quickly.”
The nature in which students learn is also quickly shifting, as Slagle notices that her students would rather work independently than sit through a lecture. With increased technology use and districts embracing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, CTE programs are adopting flipped learning environments and encouraging students to learn in a way that allows them to explore their interests at their own pace in order to receive the best possible educational experience.
“ iCEV and the resources it brings really give my students what they need in and out of the classroom, and gives them a sense of accomplishment when they do well and understand what they’re learning,” Slagle said. “It’s a great classroom enhancement for both the students and myself, and gives my students more confidence in their work.”
As a former business owner, Slagle understands the importance of having the support of other business owners and industry partners. These relationships, especially in the context of education, strengthen a program of study and offer valuable opportunities for students to learn and gain experience from professionals currently working in the field.
“Our business partners play an instrumental role in our CTE program and lead our students to the proper information and education they need to further themselves as young professionals,” Slagle said. “We’re educating them in a way that meets the needs of the job market, and we hope the training they receive makes our partners want to hire our students after they graduate.”
iCEV and the resources it brings really give my students what they need in and out of the classroom and gives them a sense of accomplishment when they do well and understand what they’re learning.
“Everyone needs some kind of degree, and it’s becoming more and more important to show that you have some kind of experience or education other than high school,” Slagle said. “Career and Technical Education really takes everything students are learning in core subjects like math, science, social studies and English and makes it relevant. This is where they figure out that they actually need to know the material if they want to succeed.”