Academic teachers in traditional subjects split their subject matter expertise between what they are teaching and how to teach it. A CTE instructor's educational and professional background centers their subject matter expertise almost entirely on their chosen profession. As a rule, they won't have the pedagogical training that other teachers will.
So, how can administrators and CTE coordinators bridge the gap between these two types of expertise? What should they look for when they need someone who can provide instruction to students that is not just rigorous and relevant but engaging and effective?
1. A Solid Work Ethic and Curious Disposition
One thing that stays pretty consistent throughout the qualitative studies that examine how effective CTE programs approach hiring is the hierarchy of skills that directors and administrators use to measure candidates against. Work ethic is almost always at the top. The ability to look at the task at hand and then break it down into actionable parts is crucial for every professional, and that's no different for teachers.
2. Excellent Communication Skills
3. A Student-Focused Mentality
Situational interview questions present a unique opportunity to get a feel for how focused on student learning, outcomes, and well-being candidates are. There's a need for qualified CTE instructors at many levels, including postsecondary and adult learners. When candidates interview for a role teaching students in high school (or middle school!) they aren't just vying for a teaching role. They're potentially signing up to be a role model for students at a wide variety of developmental stages. That's extremely rewarding but also requires a fair amount of serious dedication.
Kids are ultimately the focus of every secondary educator's daily work — are they a part of the interviews you're conducting with potential CTE instructors? They should be!
4. Organizational Fit and Compatibility
Just as every school has a mission statement, set of unique traditions, and mascot, it has its own organizational culture, as well. It's essential not to use "culture fit" to excuse bias, but that's true for any workplace. Organizational fit, by contrast, is a shared dedication to the same values.
5. Technical Skills and Competence
Though it might seem obvious, this one is often lowest on the hierarchy of desirable attributes cited in qualitative studies and surveys that focus on hiring strategies in CTE programs. That's not because it's unimportant, of course. It's much more likely that candidates seeking teaching positions in CTE are likely to arrive with a combination of certifications, credentials, and continuing education in their chosen profession. It's probably one of the first things that makes them a viable candidate in the first place!
Still, its importance can't be overstated — an effective educator is one with a combination of knowledgeability and passion for the subject they're teaching. That's doubly true in CTE classrooms, where students are likely to be assessed — and made eligible to graduate — by their ability to qualify for industry certifications of their own.
Some administrators recommend having the candidate teach a mini-lesson or seeking the input of an industry partner or member of the district's occupational advisory committee on a candidate's answers to technical questions to ensure competence.
Finding a great CTE teacher isn't always easy, but the right combination of behavioral and situational questions and opportunities to demonstrate technical skill can help you make competitive shortlists and successful hires. As CTE continues to expand, knowing what to look for in the educators that will make up the foundation of your school or school district's programming will help you keep up.