At a Glance
This Best Practice highlights how the Technical College High School, Pennock’s Bridge Campus, has implemented non-traditional staff to recruit and retain non-traditional students.
Jenny Sassaman began her career as a biology and chemistry teacher in a traditional high school. Transitioning to Technical College High School, Pennocks Bridge Campus, her primary role was supporting students in their career and technical classrooms or shops. She worked collaboratively with the career and technical instructors to integrate academic subjects by direct teaching in several programs (Culinary, Health Career Pathways, Early Childhood Education, Heating Ventilation/Air Conditioning, Criminal Justice Police Science, Cosmetology, Automotive Collision Technology, and Automotive Service Technology). As a former biology and chemistry teacher, Ms. Sassaman integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as much as possible. Instructors would briefly collaborate and identify areas needing supplementation and/or remediation. She would teach lessons such as the chemistry of certain hair treatments in the cosmetology lab. Lessons included student-centered, inquiry-based engagement, and a physical component for additional learning modalities. One such example was manipulating different colored noodles to model disulfide bonds breaking & reforming and examining both damaged/healthy hair under a microscope while drawing the observations and discussing the findings in small groups and the whole class.
As her role evolved, she worked closely with the Automotive Service Technology (AST) instructor. Vehicles are becoming more technologically advanced, especially with the emergence of electric vehicles, and STEM lessons are a natural pairing to support student learning.
As her interest in the field of automotive service grew, the instructor encouraged her to seek out certifications that would help her make deeper connections with student learning. Ms. Sassaman decided to attend an automotive school and earned a Pennsylvania Safety Inspection and Emissions license, several ASE certifications, and works in the industry as a general service technician at several local automotive shops during the summers and weekends and continues to reach for the goal of becoming an automotive instructor.
This newly gained knowledge coupled with her strong background in STEM allowed Ms. Sassaman to develop unique and innovative support for students. For example, she creates videos for both programs with QR codes so students can easily access resources for missed lessons, reviews, or remediation. The QR codes accompany many pieces of equipment around the lab/shop, and students can access instructional videos for each piece of equipment. For example, if a student is cleaning a paint gun independently and does not remember the assembly steps, they can watch the video and attempt to do it themselves instead of waiting for the instructor. Many students go to academics and miss a demonstration, and the QR codes help them catch up. School tours, Occupational Advisory Committee members, and visiting school personnel especially enjoy seeing students demonstrate their skills while watching the videos.
As a teacher in the program and not an instructor, she rotates between the labs/shops of Automotive Service and Automotive Collision. The instructor will give a theory lesson, but on occasion, she will teach a STEM lesson or an automotive-specific lesson. When it is time for students to “go to shop,” Ms. Sassaman is capable of helping with every task the students are assigned.
Non-traditional enrollment from female students in programs associated with makes was low. One female automotive service student came through the AST program approximately seven years ago, and Automotive Collison Technology (ACT), Engine Technology (Eng-T), Carpentry, and HVAC had zero female students since the school opened in 2008. This year, 2021-2022, there are four females in AST, three in ACT, two in Eng-T, four in Carpentry, and two HVAC students who are female. On surveys, students have said that taking the mandatory tour was the main reason they chose to come to TCHS. Our school anticipates that the intermediate and middle school age female students who see themselves reflected in our TCHS “women in trades” will have a cumulative effect for growth of future non-trad students.