• Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center finds creative ways to serve students through coronavirus crisis

    April 14, 2020

    Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center (GACTC) transitioned to online learning as of April 6 in order to continue serving students while complying with Gov. Wolf’s stay-at-home recommendations. According to Eric Palmer, Executive Director, the school’s instructors and students have reacted with an incredible amount of creativity and resilience.

    “Obviously, vocational learning is predominately hands-on, so the fact that we can’t get our students and instructors together to work in lab settings presents a special set of challenges,” Palmer said. “But our instructors are genuinely invested in our students, and they are coming up with inspiring and creative ways to make it work.”

    For example, Ed Campbell, an instructor in the HVAC program, has created an assignment his students can accomplish without leaving home at all. “I’ve asked each student to complete an audit of their home’s HVAC system, evaluating the age and efficiency of the units,” Campbell said. “This is a very realistic project in our field.” Johnathan Erickson, a senior in the HVAC program, is taking the new way of learning in stride. “It’s a good assignment, and while we’re starting out with simple stuff I’m sure it will get more intense as he asks us to continue to work through different scenarios involving theoretical repairs,” said Erickson, who attends Altoona High School.

    One instructor, Apryl Sparr, is using the circumstances of the coronavirus crisis as inspiration for an assignment. “I’m asking the students to create a visual representation of the phrase ‘we are all in this together,’ which is a rallying cry for the nation as we confront this pandemic,” said Sparr, who teaches Visual Arts Technologies. “They can use traditional media like oils, watercolors, sculpture, photography, or digital media – whatever they have access to and want to use. We’re going to get together online to brainstorm ideas as a group. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.” Once the students have completed their projects, Sparr plans to create a marketing assignment with the results – students will be tasked with finding innovative ways (social media, the school’s website, etc.) to share the projects with the public.

    Heather McCloskey, Culinary Arts instructor, is also using current events as part of an assignment – her students are writing a short paper on how they would respond to the current crisis if they owned a restaurant. “I’m asking them to think through what a restaurant owner would need to consider – such as possible layoffs, and whether they would want to offer takeout and delivery,” McCloskey explained. “And if they do decide to offer takeout, what modifications they would need to make to avoid contamination and ensure everyone’s safety.” McCloskey is planning additional theoretical assignments, such asking students to create a virtual food truck with a signature dish, and describe how the dish would be modified to include regional ingredients as it traveled across the country. Students will have hands-on assignments too, such as being asked to prepare a meal for their families from three ingredients they have on hand, submit photos of the meal, and solicit reviews from their family members.

    Instructors are communicating with students via email, as well as Canvas, an online learning platform, and tools like Google Classrooms. Instructors have been equipped with Google Voice phone numbers so they can communicate one-on-one with students without using their personal cell phones.

    “We’ve reached to all households to determine home internet and device capabilities,” Palmer said.  “Nearly all partner school districts have distributed of electronic devices to their students, which is helpful as these can be used for their GACTC assignments as well. But where necessary, students without access are provided paper copies of work to be completed.”

    For the first week of online learning, the school used an “enrichment and review” model, which meant that online activities focused on previously-learned concepts and skills, and were not mandatory. Beginning on April 14, the school’s model is shifting, and instructors will begin taking attendance and issuing grades. “We have to move forward as if this is our new normal,” Palmer said. “Our students will go on to become the next generation of essential workers, and we have an obligation to continue to prepare them.”

    Special education and support personnel are making weekly contact with the parents of students who receive specially designed instruction. The check-ins are intended to ensure that if students are struggling or have questions, they can receive as much help as possible.

    “Our students are passionate about what they do, and we’ve found that they are excited to get back to work,” Palmer said. “Obviously, these circumstances are not ideal. But the way everyone has responded to this unprecedented situation so far is fantastic.”


     

    Students at Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center earn 27 medals in district competition

    January 31, 2020

    GACTC students recently competed and earned a total of 27 medals in the District 7 SkillsUSA competition, which was held at the Jaffa Shrine Center of Altoona on January 21. SkillsUSA is a career and technical student organization serving more than 395,000 members every year enrolled in trade, technical, and skilled service training programs across the country. District 7 is one of 11 districts in the state of Pennsylvania. GACTC competitors were selected by their instructors based on experience, or in some cases, a local competition they must win to move on to the district level.

    “All 13 of our first place winners will advance to the state competition in Hershey this April,” said Dodie Amigh, SkillsUSA advisor at the GACTC. “We'll also have additional representatives competing at states who advance directly, as well as delegates. In fact, this will be the largest group we've ever sent to compete at states, and we'll have 41 students at the conference representing the GACTC.”

    Skills USA Participants

    Student winners from GACTC are as follows:

     

    Category

     

    Student

     

    Home School

     

     

    Grade

     

     

     

    Place

     

     

    Automotive Refinishing

     

    Noah Walker

     

    GACTC Adult Student

     

     

     

    1st

     

    Auto Service Technology

     

    Christian Scott

     

    GACTC Adult Student

     

     

     

    1st

     

    Carpentry

     

    Jacob Schmidhamer

     

    Altoona High School

     

    12

     

    1st

     

    Masonry

     

    Noah Romano

     

    GACTC Adult Student

     

     

     

    1st

     

    Mechatronics

     

    Kayden Tremmel

     

    Altoona High School

     

    12

     

    1st

     

    Mechatronics

     

    Ashton McClellan

     

    Glendale High School

     

    11

     

    1st

     

    Photography

     

    Abigail Young

     

    Home School

     

    11

     

    1st

     

    Quiz Bowl: Computer Programming                                                                     

     

    Carter McCoy

     

    Hollidaysburg High School

     

    11

     

    1st

     

    Quiz Bowl: Computer Programming                                                      

     

    Olivia Beck

     

    Tyrone High School

     

    10

     

    1st

     

    Quiz Bowl: Computer Programming                                                                               

     

    Karissa Baker

     

    Hollidaysburg High School

     

    11

     

    1st

     

    Quiz Bowl:                                          Electro Mechanical Engineering

     

    Terri Henry

     

    Hollidaysburg High School

     

    11

     

    1st

     

    Quiz Bowl: Interior Decorating and Finishing                                              

     

    Marissa Hoover

     

    Hollidaysburg High School

     

    11

     

    1st

     

    Restaurant Service

     

    Cheyenne Shoeman

     

    Altoona High School

     

    10

     

    1st

     

    Commercial Baking

     

    Gabriella Noel

     

    Central High School

     

    11

     

    2nd

     

    Computer Programming

     

    David Rudy

     

    Altoona High School

     

    12

     

    2nd

     

     

    Dental Assisting

     

     

    Alyssa Henderson

     

     

    Altoona High School

     

     

    11

     

     

    2nd

     

    Extemporaneous Speaking:                        Logistics & Materials Management

     

    Colin Thompson

     

    Claysburg High School

     

    12

     

    2nd

     

    Job Interview:                                          Interior Decorating and Finishing

     

    Kat Champeno

     

    Hollidaysburg High School

     

    12

     

    2nd

     

     

    Advertising Design

     

    Callie Dunmire

     

    Hollidaysburg High School

     

    11

     

    3rd

     

    Esthetics

     

    Maura Kriebel

     

    Hollidaysburg High School

     

    12

     

    3rd

     

    Esthetics Model

     

    Abby Sponsler

     

    Hollidaysburg High School

     

    12

     

    3rd

    Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration

     

    Nathan Erikson

     

    Altoona High School

     

    12

     

    3rd

     


    Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center's automotive technology program earns re-accreditation

    January 29, 2020

    The automotive technology program at the GACTC has been re-accredited through the ASE Education Foundation, a non-profit organization that evaluates and accredits auto tech programs according to industry standards.

    “We commend you and your staff for maintaining your program’s standards and continuing to meet the industry’s requirements,” wrote ASE President Michael Coley in a letter announcing the re-accreditation.

    The ASE accreditation process evaluates the program's structure, processes, resources, materials, and mission. Re-accreditation must occur at a five-year interval.

    “The demand for qualified automotive technicians is exponentially increasing. We strive to provide regional automotive service centers with skilled and industry-ready graduates to fill their workforce needs,” said Eric Palmer, Executive Director of the GACTC.

    For more information about GACTC and its automotive technology program, please call 941-TECH. 



    Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center students participate in National SkillsUSA Competition 

    July 12, 2019

    The GACTC announces the results of its student competitors at the national SkillsUSA Competition in June. The SkillsUSA Championships are a variety of competitive events showcasing the top career and technical education high school and adult students in the nation. The students first compete at the local and state level to earn a spot at the national event.  

    Four high school students in the Interior Decorating and Finishing program at GACTC were named gold medal winners in the Career Pathway Showcase for a Human Services Team at the national competition, which was held in Louisville, KY. The competition is attended by more than 18,000 students, teachers and business partners from across the United States in various career paths and programs.

     The winning team included:

    • Eliza Albright, a 2019 graduate from Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School
    • Devyn Amigh, a 9th grade student from Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School
    • Marissa Hoover, a 10th grade student from Altoona Area High School
    • Elle Detwiler, a 10th grade student from Williamsburg Community Jr./Sr. High School

     GACTC students win gold medal at 2019 National SkillsUSA championship.

    The students’ presentation at the national competition discussed the GACTC SkillsUSA Student Club’s partnership with the Intermunicipal Relations Committee (IRC) and Keep Blair County Beautiful to distribute 17,000 9-volt Duracell batteries to members of our community to ensure home smoke detectors work properly. The campaign is called the 3R's: “Replace, Recycle, Relax”. GACTC students involved in the program are still distributing batteries at local events. The Altoona Area Public Library is also distributing the free batteries to community members on behalf of the students.

    Additionally, Daryla Clark, a graduate of the Administrative Office Specialist post-secondary program at the GACTC, also competed at the National SkillsUSA competition in Customer Service. Ms. Clark placed 9th in the nation in Customer Service. By competing at the national level, Ms. Clark earned the Customer Service Specialist Certification from the Electronics Technicians Association.

    The faculty advisors for the GACTC SkillsUSA Chapter include Dodie Amigh and Brian Kelley.