VALEES conference gives teachers chance to learn

By on March 19, 2009

by Susan O’Neill
Teachers from area school districts and gathered at Waubsonsee Community College in Sugar Grove on Feb. 27 to learn new ideas to help them become better educators.

Valley Education for Employment System (VALEES) hosted the day-long conference, bringing together presenters on topics such as classroom strategies for improving students’ reading; technology and techniques for helping students explore career options; and factors important to career success, personal accounts by Waubonsee alumni.

An afternoon business advisory meetings connected teachers with business representatives to talk about current and future employability demands and how they might work together to make the educational experience more relevant.

Kaneland High School teacher Christina Kenkel said the Career and Technical Education conference is a great opportunity to network and collaborate with teachers from other schools. Kenkel teaches foods and culinary arts in the Family and Consumer Science curriculum at Kaneland.

One of the sessions Kenkel attended was on digital storytelling. Business education teacher Lisa Woods, health teacher Carol Navarro and Superintendent Pauline Berggren of the Newark Community High School District shared their experiences with helping students discover who they are, their career interests and their personal values through creating their own digital stories or slide shows.

Another session on student career exploration featured a demonstration by Career Cruising representative Steve Yaun of an interactive technology program that helps students define their career interests. With the technology, studenta are able to access additional useful information about their choices, such as in-depth occupation profiles, multimedia informational interviews with workers in each field and college and financial aid information.

Northern Illinois University Professor of Counseling and Presidential Teaching Professor Dr. Toni Tollerud challenged the teachers to begin fostering career readiness at the kindergarten and first-grade level. Tollerud said that by using readily available resources, teachers can begin by using the careers of students’ parents as examples of various options.

Tollerud said things are changing so rapidly in the world of work that teachers need to prepare students for a very different career landscape than exists today.

“The jobs that are being lost now may never come back,” she said. “About 50 percent of the careers our kids will be doing don’t exist yet.”

The health care interpreter is an example of a new and growing profession. The interpreter helps patients who do not speak English fluently to communicate effectively with their doctors and other health care providers. Without health care interpreters, patients can be misdiagnosed or receive incorrect treatment.

Waubonsee currently offers the first Associate in Applied Science Degree in Health Care Interpreting in Illinois. Faculty member Cynthia Perez, who teaches in both the degree and certificate program, brings her experience as the lead interpreter at Provena Mercy Center in Aurora to her students at Waubonsee.

This program is one example of a collaboration that created an academic solution to fill an emerging business need.

For more information about VALEES, call Director Bernie Looney at (630) 466-2905, e-mail or visit