Tag Archives: Career and Technical Education

A Surprise Visit

Dear Superintendents,

Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to greet members of the Wyoming Association of School Business Officials (WASBO) during their spring meeting. What an outstanding group of education leaders! Here are a few points from my remarks:

  • The staff at WDE consistently demonstrates professionalism, expertise, and commitment in all they do–they are amazing! We know our success depends on our ability to partner with you–our school districts are essential team members!
  • Since taking office in 2015, WDE has lost over 10% of our staff due to budget reductions. Almost every line item in our general fund and foundation budgets has been reduced, totaling millions. We will continue to meet our core and critical mission of supporting school districts and we are grateful to have you as partners.
  • As the legislative session winds down, we have seen a spectrum of solutions that attempt to address the education funding shortfall—everything from raising taxes 5%+ so no cuts are needed to fundamentally changing the way education funding is prioritized. This spectrum of ideas underscores the crisis and has every Wyoming legislator invested in the challenge. No matter what funding legislation makes it to the “finish line” I think we can count on recalibration commencing almost immediately after the session. This is where you come in.
  • It is critical that education leaders, superintendents, board members, business managers, and others come to the table with solutions that are incremental and truly address the enormity of the shortfall.
  • Aside from funding, there is important legislative and policy work moving Wyoming education forward.
  • The U.S. Department of Education has formally directed state superintendents to continue moving forward with assertive timelines for ESSA implementation.
  • As changes related to Title funding formulas and programs are analyzed by our staff we will communicate that to you, the districts. We don’t anticipate state allocations changing but may see changes in formulas for local districts.
Chief of Staff, Dicky Shanor, and Comms Director, Kari Eakins, with U.S. Senator Enzi
Chief of Staff, Dicky Shanor, and Comms Director, Kari Eakins, with U.S. Senator Enzi
U.S. Senator Mike Enzi and State Superintendent Jillian Balow discuss CTE, ESSA, and Wyoming in the Superintendent's office.
U.S. Senator Enzi and Superintendent Balow discuss CTE, ESSA, and Wyoming

Only in Wyoming

Yesterday was the 100th birthday of the Smith-Hughes Act which created Vocational Education, now known as Career and Technical Education, or CTE. Earlier in the day, our CTE supervisor, Guy Jackson, bumped into the Senator at the bakery and invited him for cake. And, in a tale fit for Wyoming, Senator Enzi stopped by WDE to help us celebrate. Senator Enzi is a champion for education and CTE and we thank him dearly for visiting and for his work!

ESSA State Plan

I shared with WASBO members and others this week that Wyoming is moving forward with our ESSA state plan and full implementation of the new law. The timeline is assertive but we owe our teachers and students a finalized ESSA plan by the beginning of school year 2017-18. There are multiple areas within the state plan that need to be developed or articulated including our standards, assessments, accountability, federal dollars, alignment of local and state reform efforts, professional development, innovations, partnerships, and more. No decision is made unilaterally or in a vacuum. Thank you for your continued willingness to participate in the process along with many other stakeholders in Wyoming education. We have many strengths to leverage and we are doing just that. Please visit our website for more information, updates, and drafts.

Memos to be released:


Career Technical Education Month Recognized in Wyoming

CHEYENNE – Faculty and students across Wyoming are demonstrating the rigor and importance of Career Technical Education (CTE) courses by celebrating CTE Month this February. Activities taking place include participation in a national social media Thunderclap, spearheaded by the Association for Career and Technical Education.

“Career Technical Education helps make school relevant to students and gives them the skills they will need to be successful after high school,” said State Superintendent Jillian Balow. “CTE month is a chance for us to highlight the efforts of schools to improve student outcomes and diversify our economy in Wyoming.”

CTE prepares students for a range of career options utilizing programs in high schools, career training centers, community and technical colleges, and four-year universities. A profile on Wyoming’s CTE efforts is available at http://www.acteonline.org/stateprofiles/.

Governor Matt Mead will underscore the state’s commitment to CTE by officially proclaiming February as CTE Month in Wyoming on Tuesday, February 14 at 9:30 a.m. at the Jonah Business Center, Room L-54.

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Information on Career Technical Student Organizations

Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

Hathaway Day

Dear Superintendents,

We are excited to celebrate Hathaway Day on November 16. Governor Mead will sign a proclamation commemorating the tenth year of the Hathaway Scholarship Program on November 9in Cheyenne. The ceremony is open to the public an we would love to see you there!

Hathaway Day gives us the ideal opportunity to unveil a makeover to the look and feel of the program. An ongoing goal of our Hathaway staff at WDE has been to educate students and families about the Hathaway Scholarship opportunity before students are in high school. We think we’ve hit on some pretty exciting ways to do this!

Most notably, 6th graders can receive the Hathaway Scholarship Certificate. This simple change has great potential. In particular, we are interested in reframing the Hathaway conversation from, “You can only earn the Hathaway Scholarship by doing x, y, and z…” to “All students are awarded the scholarship today (6th grade). By continuing to do your best, when you graduate from a Wyoming high school and complete the success curriculum, this certificate turns into actual dollars that can be used at any Wyoming college or the University. We want to support you in your journey to turn this certificate into money for college.”

In addition to the 6th grade certificate template, we also included posters, worksheets, and other resources. All are attached to the memo below. We intend for Hathaway Day to be an annual event that grows each year!

Over the past year, the WDE has engaged stakeholders in discussions about how to improve the Hathaway Scholarship program requirements. Suggestions were presented recently to the Joint Education Committee and ranged from improved access to the scholarship by CTE students to a new, advanced tier. No decisions were made at the meeting. I’ll continue to advocate for changes that accommodate our CTE concentrators and trades-bound students better.


This week, a team from Wyoming and out-of-state visitors traveled to several schools and communities to see CTE programs and career pathways. It was an absolute thrill to have Wyoming schools showcase their programs, partnerships, teachers, and students. Thank you for welcoming us into your schools! A few takeaways:

  • The most renowned schools of innovation in the U.S. have nothing on us in Wyoming.  
  • The “right people on the bus going the same direction” is key.
  • Challenges are overcome with persistence and a stubborn aversion to the word, “no.”
  • Scaling career pathways across the state, especially in remote areas, is still a challenge.
  • Schools are taking advantage of Perkins dollars and state demo grants.
  • The WDE can support this type innovation even better (percolating).
  • We didn’t see any coding or computer science pathways and I’d like to see more.
  • Great physical space is, well, great, but not necessary to creating pathway programs for students.

I anticipate our out-of-state visitors will be talking about Wyoming for months. I look forward to the follow-up conversations. Thank you again for the great week!

Students from Rawlins High School stand in a home they are constructing and describe the project to State Superintendent Jillian Balow and CCSSO Executive Director Chris Minnich.
Home construction site in Rawlins–students explaining their work and progress

Memos to be released Monday, November 7:


STEM Educators of the Year Recognized at Conference

CHEYENNE – The 2015-16 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Educators of the Year were honored at the 2016 Roadmap to STEM Conference in Rock Springs August 1.

Over a dozen nominations were submitted and reviewed by a selection committee at the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE). Guy Jackson, supervisor of the WDE Career Technical Education Section, says the WDE recognizes exemplary STEM educators from elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels of education each year.

“Teachers instill inspiration and wonder in their students everyday whether a STEM teacher, language arts teacher, art teacher or career technical education teacher,” said Jackson. “We recognize and thank all these educators for what they do and the time they invest in developing their students for our future.”

STEM Elementary Educator of the Year
Mrs. Christine Horsen, First Grade Teacher, Meeteetse Schools

Mrs. Horsen working with students on a hands-on project in her classroom.

Mrs. Horsen combines her knowledge of the Big Horn Basin’s rich geologic resources to incorporate STEM into the Meeteetse Elementary Summer School Program. Last summer, students built robots and went on a field trip to Red Lake to deploy them, learning about fossils and rock formations. This year, students experienced an archeological dig on school grounds, then analyzed and discussed their findings.

“I truly believe that you’ve got to help kids love learning and I think it’s essential in the lower grades,” said Mrs. Horsen. “STEM education allows children to be curious. It brings out that excitement in learning, and it’s vital.”

Students use their iPads in Mrs. Horsen’s class to search the internet for resources to use in her brown bag challenges and science days. Last year, every student produced a personally relevant invention to solve a real world problem.

In order to entice girls to STEM, Mrs. Horsen started GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) for all elementary girls in the school. She has incorporated many experiments, and has also brought many scientists in the community to the school to talk about their careers.

“The mantra in Meeteetse is, ‘We want students to think and act like scientists’ and Christine starts that in the first grade,” said Jay Curtis, Superintendent of Park County School District #16. “Her style, her flair, and her excitement is something that truly impacts the students in her class and they are excited to learn because she is excited to teach.”

2016 STEM Elementary Educator of the Year Video

STEM Secondary Educator of the Year
Mrs. Teresa Strube, Middle School Science and Math teacher, UW Lab School

Mrs. Strube helping students in her classroom.

“It’s a bit unusual for science and math teachers to form strong partnerships with the librarians in a school, but Mrs. Strube is the exception! She works closely with my staff to create and teach innovative technology electives,” said Dr. Margaret Hudson, principal at the UW Lab School.

These elective courses, offered quarterly for the past two years, have included building raspberry pi, robotics exploration, programming Sphero robots, and a girls-only technology course.

Mrs. Strube is keen to assess her work as a teacher and find multiple strategies to achieve goals, such as involving more middle school girls in the technology electives. This past fall, she took 20 middle school students to a regional library conference, where the students presented their experiments to a large group of teachers and librarians.

“Teaching with technology has always been important, but allowing students the opportunity to use it is going to help them in any field that they go into,” said Mrs. Strube. “There are jobs out there that don’t exist for us that they’re going to have to be prepared for, and to be able to present them with the newest, cutting-edge stuff is extremely important to me.”

Co-workers and parents agree that Mrs. Strube’s encouragement of students to be technological leaders requires a great deal of willingness, planning, and open-mindedness. She’s “tough but fair” and students respect her knowledge, enthusiasm, high expectations, and non-gendered support of STEM learning.

“She is kind and generous in mentoring her student teachers and in partnering with other teachers in the school. Her attitude is positive, and her answer is almost always “yes!” when approached with a new idea. The world could use more teachers like Mrs. Strube,” added Dr. Hudson.

2016 STEM Secondary Educator of the Year Video

STEM Post-Secondary Educator of the Year
Dr. Edwin C. Bittner, Jr. VMS, Veterinary Technology Instructor, Eastern Wyoming College

Dr. Bittner helps a student take care of an animal in the lab.

Dr. Bittner draws on a wealth of knowledge from over 30 years in practice and integrates emerging information to make his courses unparalleled in their quality and content.

“He’s very consistent with his high standards and all of the students strive to meet those high standards,” said Dr. Susan Walker, EWC’s Veterinary Technology Program Director.

“The good thing that sets Dr. Bittner apart from all the other instructors is that he can make something that seems so out-of-the-way and so difficult to comprehend just more interesting to learn,” said EWC student Diandra Turner.

Dr. Bittner is frequently contacted by veterinary hospitals and wildlife rehabilitation facilities to recommend students for jobs or internships, and program alumni contact him looking for advice. He was integral in setting up regional vaccination clinics in which students not only gained knowledge and experience, but were also publically promoted as necessary members of the veterinary health-care team.

Dr. Bittner says STEM education allows him to provide a student-oriented and hands-on program: “We want our students to succeed by earning a grade and being competent in the career field when they leave here. I’ve found we can make lemonade out of lemons because we may have students that are very grounded in math and others not at all, and this gives us an opportunity to all rise to the level of the expectation of the class by not only the instructor helping, but the other students helping.”

Dr. Bittner is constantly developing and refining his teaching methods. As faculty identify areas where students are deficient in their knowledge or need remediation, he has been able to address those areas by developing new courses, including an innovative math course. He was also integral in developing biology and chemistry courses specifically for veterinary technicians.

2016 STEM Post-Secondary Educator of the Year

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Media Contact:
Kari Eakins, Communications Director

Roadmap to STEM Conference

This conference provides practical information to pK-16 educators, administrators, curriculum coordinators and counselors about Science,
Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program implementation.

The conference includes a number of hands-on workshops, interactive sessions, and half-day STEM experiences where attendees participate in STEM-related activities, projects, research, curriculum development, industry tours, and more. Workshops, sessions and keynotes emphasize the delivery of content knowledge in forms that are accessible to students, and ways that STEM programming can be implemented and taught effectively and engagingly.

Draft Science Standards

Dear Superintendents,

Today, draft Wyoming Science Content and Performance Standards were released.  The WDE held a press conference this morning where we discussed the review/development process, the 41-person committee, and a few highlights in the standards and the process.  We also fielded questions including how the committee reconciled controversial language and standards such as climate change. Here is a link to the media release and draft standards: http://edu.wyoming.gov/draft-science-standards-available-to-the-public/ 

The committee shared their views on the review and development process in a video: https://youtu.be/5hXolvWbazY

It was with the help of Wyoming superintendents that the standards review process was improved to include greater transparency and inclusiveness while maintaining a commitment to high rigor of standards. Thank you for your work!

Next week, the State Board will have an opportunity to discuss the draft standards and vote on next steps.

Wyoming Science Standards Review Committee reaches consensus

Legislative Update

The Legislative Management Council met on Wednesday to determine interim study topics for education:

Priority #: 1 Every Student Succeeds Act

Priority #: 2 Wyoming Accountability in Education Act (WAEA)

Priority #: 3 School Finance

Priority #: 4 Hathaway Scholarship Program

Priority #: 5 Alignment of public education efforts

Priority #: 6 Distance Education

Priority #: 7 Medically Necessary Placements

These are the topics that will be discussed in the interim at 3 x 2-day meetings.  One or more of the topics may result in committee-sponsored legislation for the 2017 session.

Disability Awareness Proclamation
Disability Awareness Proclamation
Lander receives its accreditation award along with others at the Spring AdvancEd Conference
Lander receives its accreditation award along with others at the Spring AdvancEd Conference

Memos to be released March 14, 2016: