Training your team under the new guidelines

By Beth A. DeHoff

The 2012 revisions to the career development events guidelines, now available, should help teachers get into training for CDEs for the first time – or help veteran advisors refine and target their training more accurately and easily than ever before.

“The new CDE handbook, and the way it ties CDEs to the national standards, is vital to the continued success of CDEs on the local, state and national level,” said Bill Davenport, agriscience teacher and program director and department head of the Ellis Clark Regional Agriscience and Technology Program at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Conn. In his 26 years of teaching, Davenport has coached three to six CDE teams each year, with more than 80 state-winning teams competing at nationals, including 16 National Gold Medal Teams and more than 70 individual national gold medal winners.

“The revisions give teachers plenty of ‘ammo’ to prove the educational value of these awards programs,” Davenport said. “It also shows industry sponsors that we are serious about making the CDEs more rigorous and more relevant to career paths students can follow. In addition, administrators love national standards, and they will become even more supportive of our programs once they see every CDE has been linked to a national standard.”

Davenport, who also praised the new emphasis on teamwork and communication in each of the CDEs, intends to put the revised handbook to use. “I’m glad we now have actual rubrics for most events so they can be less subjective. This allows us to train our teams more adequately, and I think it helps students see if they put effort into the team and learn the material, they can succeed. Sometimes in the past, no matter how much they prepared and learned, students may not have succeeded if they didn’t happen to see things the same way the officials did that day,” he says. “I think the rubrics will allow students to have a more rewarding experience in the end.”

Melissa Dunkel, educational specialist for CDEs at National FFA, offers four steps for training your team for a national CDE:

  • Read the CDE handbook. “All the rules, format and score cards are found in this document. The handbook also includes event resources used by the committees to write exams, practicums and other activities,” Dunkel says. “This is a very important resource!”
  • Review the CDE resources in the FFA Core Catalog. “Teachers can purchase past CDE materials, scan forms and find other helpful training tools,” she says.
  • Visit CDEs at national convention. “CDE tours and presentations are very helpful to teachers who want to see the national events in action and use their experiences to train their CDE teams,” Dunkel notes.
  • Talk to more experienced teachers/advisors. “Seek out an advisor who has competed in CDEs previously,” she says. “Their experience could help you and your teams feel more comfortable about what’s expected at nationals.”

As one of those experienced teachers, Davenport encourages fellow advisors to jump into the CDE experience with both feet. “Coaching students in CDEs is one of my favorite parts of the job,” he says. “These students help me stay excited and motivated as a teacher, and I feed off their energy, commitment and high level of competitiveness to work hard and succeed. Working with students like this puts much-needed wind back in your sail after a tough day at school.”