Game changer? GCC’s new program may finally solve Guam’s teacher shortage

Marsha Postrozny, GCC’s education department chair who helped design the BS CTE program, said this new program aims to produce high-quality CTE educators who will possess technical expertise, apply best teaching practices, and hold culturally-responsive values to address the chronic teacher shortages in the Pacific region, particularly in Guam and Micronesia.

Guam Community College’s first baccalaureate degree program offering a Bachelor of Science in Career Technical Education may be the game changer that Guam needs to finally solve the island’s workforce woes, especially the perpetual shortage of teachers in the island’s public schools.

Many years in the making, GCC first began evaluating a potential program that would support a four-year bachelor’s degree in 2015. The final decision to focus on Career and Technical Education resulted from the CTE Summit hosted by GCC in March 2019.

It was there that Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez acknowledged the need for another teacher preparation program to address the chronic shortage of teachers every year at GDOE, as well as the need to further strengthen the collaboration between GCC and GDOE to resolve the shortage.

It was also determined that the BS CTE program would help address both GDOE’s teacher shortage and allow GCC to strengthen its core mission.

Marsha Postrozny, GCC’s education department chair who helped design the BS CTE program, said this new program aims to produce high-quality CTE educators who will possess technical expertise, apply best teaching practices, and hold culturally-responsive values to address the chronic teacher shortages in the Pacific region, particularly in Guam and Micronesia.

The program also helps the students themselves who are provided with the necessary tools to seek employment in K-12, trade and technical schools, community colleges, and in industry or business environments. Moreover, CTE programs can prepare students for high-wage, high-skill and in-demand occupations.

Postrozny said CTE is split into 16 career clusters that apply to different high-demand careers.

“For instance, if an individual earns their BSCTE with a specialization in AutoCAD, that individual will be able to take several career tracks, for example, teaching AutoCAD in secondary schools or at trade and technical schools or community colleges, working as a trainer in that specific trade within, or actually working as an AutoCAD designer. The teaching and training options are available because the individual will have the pedagogical content knowledge as well,” Postrozny said in an interview with PNC.

According to Postrozny, industry demand for certified teachers has continued to be an issue for several years on Guam and in the Micronesian region.

Information on the lack of qualified educators was shared during the Spring 2019 CTE Summit by GDOE and GCC’s Education Department. A student survey following the summit also showed very high interest in CTE among GCC’s student population.

The good news for GCC students and graduates is that the new program already provides an opportunity for them to apply their CTE associate or technical diploma (like Culinary Arts, Automotive, Construction Trades, Early Childhood Education, etc.) to this new baccalaureate degree on the way to becoming educators who meet the CTE certification requirements of the Guam Commission for Educator Certification and the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards for CTE.

It will also be possible for secondary students who may or may not have CTE-related credits to pursue this program.

Continuing issue

According to Postrozny, GCC education department faculty will be teaching most of the required CTE courses under this program and she assured that GCC has a highly qualified pool of instructors for the various CTE specialization areas.

“In fact, several of the courses that will be part of the BSCTE curriculum are already being taught at GCC. We hope to graduate students who are both highly skilled in their CTE area of specialization and who can apply best teaching practices. Ultimately we hope our program will help meet the needs of the community and region in filling teacher shortages and enhancing workforce development. We also trust that our program will help build a more skilled workforce competent in technical, educational, and soft skills,” Postrozny said.

Upon successful completion of the BS CTE degree, program completers will be able to:

* Create an engaging classroom environment aligned to the needs of diverse learners;
* Plan, develop, and deliver a curriculum that is based on rigorous and relevant expectations using culturally-relevant teaching methodology;
* Integrate into instruction effective and research-based teaching and learning principles embedded with best assessment practices and use of technology; and
* Apply leadership and ethical principles in the implementation and management of CTE programs.

GDOE input

Postrozny said the decision to adopt BSCTE as GCC’s first baccalaureate degree comes from the college’s long-standing partnership with the Guam Department of Education.

Presentations on the substantive content of the bachelor’s degree program were conducted with various stakeholders such as GDOE principals to spread awareness and buy-in of the program. Meaningful input gathered from these presentations was also integrated into the program curriculum.

In fact, Postrozny said GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez helped in GCC’s decision to focus this four-year degree program on CTE. At GCC’s Career and Technical Education Summit last March, Fernandez spoke of two areas of need:

* How to use CTE to engage students so they can be ready to succeed right out of high school; and
* How to deal with the teacher shortage in order to expand students’ access to CTE, so more of them can benefit from the programs and even start CTE programs earlier in their education.

“The BSCTE program is a way to address both the teacher shortage and to engage students in an effective way in terms of their careers after graduation,” Postrozny stressed. “Ultimately, the program can better engage students in their own education and give them the opportunity to look beyond the diploma and look at the industries out there and careers.”

So why is this new degree more suited for GCC and not UOG?

Postrozny pointed out that the new program perfectly aligns with GCC’s mission since GCC already has several CTE courses in all of Guam’s public high schools in addition to its existing industry and post-secondary CTE programs.

“This program is in alignment with the college’s mandate to provide career and technical education to develop a strong foundation for workforce development on Guam and in the region. GCC already has an edge over other educational institutions when it comes to CTE in secondary education,” Postrozny said.

Moreover, high school students enrolled in GCC’s CTE courses will now have an opportunity to start earning credit towards a bachelor’s program.

From the former Guam Vocational-Technical High School which preceded the Guam Community College, Postrozny said it has always been GCC’s mandate to provide Career and Technical Education for the community.

“Moving forward with a four-year Bachelor of Science in Career and Technical Education (BSCTE) shows just how far our community has evolved,” Postrozny said.

GCC’s BSCTE program has a scheduled start date of Fall 2020. The program will be open to candidates with an associate degree in any CTE field, as well as new high school graduates.