Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Audrey Romito – Domestic Violence Program Coordinator

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logo

Since students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.

In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Audrey Romito, who is a Domestic Violence Program Coordinator at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Audrey continued her education after high school focused on the world of cosmetology. She became a licensed hair stylist, and for a time, she worked as a hair stylist. In looking for a change, she found a position with Kane County, where she began working on issues related to domestic violence, and from there, her interest for working with victims of domestic violence grew into a career. In her current role, Audrey engages in a wide range of tasks and responsibilities with regards to supporting victims of domestic violence from coordinating services to providing counseling.

The work that Audrey does as a Domestic Violence Program Coordinator is part of the Human and Public Services Career Pathway, though Audrey’s work, particularly in the context of the hospital setting in which she works can also be viewed as part of the Health and Technology Career Pathway.

In this episode, Audrey discusses her unique experiences between her graduation from Kaneland High School and her career that she loves so much today. Audrey highlights the fact that her work is unpredictable from one day to the next, and there is a danger of experiencing professional burn-out for those working with victims of domestic violence as is the case in many occupations in the Human and Public Services Career Pathway. To minimize this risk for herself, Audrey focuses on both meeting people where they are at and the little victories toward helping those with whom she is working become more independent. Audrey also stresses that the following essential skills are critical to success in her work: active listening, setting and reflecting on realistic goals, and being respectful of other people.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video with Domestic Violence Program Coordinator Audrey Romito.

We apologize about the audio issues in the closing minutes of this episode. We decided to leave Audrey’s important answers in the video despite the audio issues that resulted from our video conference software solution.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

November 2020

A resource for our times: Meeting student needs during hybrid & remote learning

Under the direction of the Illinois P-20 Council, a workgroup was developed and facilitated by Education Systems Center to study the impact and best practices related to the range of learning environments in place in schools across Illinois as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. A Framework and Resources for Measuring Student Needs and Development During Remote and Blended Learning has been published and is available for school districts and communities to consider. With the Pandemic continuing for the foreseeable future, school districts can utilize this resource for planning for the coming months.

November 2020

Amplifying Solutions – Tips for New Administrators


Each episode of Amplifying Solutions focuses on questions and challenges from practitioners, primarily current graduate students earning their degrees to become the next generation of principals, school business leaders, and superintendents, as well as those students who are earning their doctoral degrees. In response to these questions, experts are brought together to discuss solutions and strategies. The complete video conversation is included below.

In this episode of Amplifying Solutions, Dr. Susan Homes from the Illinois Principals’ Association and Dr. Courtney Orzel from the Illinois Association of School Administrators discuss tips to help new school leaders, as well as veteran administrators, be successful. While the context is specifically geared toward the COVID-19 pandemic, as is discussed in the video, these tips are relevant and applicable at any time.

The same keys to success

While the COVID-19 Pandemic presents unique challenges that have placed tremendous stress on school systems and all of the individuals in them, from students and families to teachers and staff to school administrators, Dr. Homes and Dr. Orzel point out that the keys to being successful during the Pandemic are the same keys to being successful at any time. These include:

  • Build relationships first – Be certain to know people as individuals, to understand and appreciate the community (or in many cases, the various communities that make up a school or district), learn the politics and dynamics of decision-making, and establish trust, respect, and fairness.
  • Be genuine – People, including students, see through ego and falsehoods. Identify your core values and stick to them. (One tip is to ask your immediate family what they think your core values are, and you can check their answers against your own. Their answers are likely to reveal patterns in your daily actions.)
  • Personalize the work – Students and staff members alike will learn more and do better when work has been personalized according to their needs and interests. Ask students and staff members directly about their needs and interests, and then follow-through to make adjustments based on what they have told you.
Taking care of yourself

It has become a common refrain to tell leaders to take care of themselves and to remind leaders that they cannot be successful for others if they are not staying well. At the same time, for many school administrators knowing that this is true is one thing while putting it into practice on a consistent, ongoing basis is much more difficult. Some tips include:

  • Take advantage of professional resources focused on wellness – For example, IASA has launched its Mindfulness Matters series for its members.
  • Find your group – Connect with colleagues who face the same challenges and pressures and be there to support one another. Text each other to simply see how others are doing. Call a colleague to check-in on the way to or from work. Make these routine parts of your day.
  • Hold each other accountable for being well – Take a few minutes and eat your lunch. Drink water throughout the day. Exercise and know that the time you are spending doing so will help you be more productive and more positive (and more likely to stay well physically, too). Along with the colleagues in the aforementioned group, remind one another to take these steps each day. Ask each other if you did. If not, help brainstorm how to do so tomorrow.
Get important things done – and done well

With the busy competing demands that school leaders face, prioritizing is always important, and during the Pandemic, it is more important than ever. Schools and districts must continually ask themselves, “What are our most important goals and needs for students?” Then, when faced with new or additional requests, it is critical to ask, “Will this new task still allow me to focus on successfully accomplishing the priorities that we set?”

To help ensure that you follow through with the priorities, some of the suggestions in the video include the following:

  • Use your calendar – Block out the time in your calendar to complete the tasks that are your priorities. If being in classrooms (in-person or remote/online) is an important part of your plan to improve student learning, time to be in classrooms must be blocked out in your calendar and maintained as a priority.
  • Work with your colleagues – Most schools and districts are full of dedicated, smart people. As a school or district leader, you do not have to know or do everything. Share work with your colleagues wherever and whenever it is appropriate with their jobs. At the same time, you have to balance this by also protecting their time as the leader to ensure that they can maintain their focus on completing the tasks that align with the organization’s priorities for students.
  • Follow-through – The work does not get done if you do not follow-through and complete it. This also includes being sure to close communication loops, so teachers and staff, families, and students know that the work is complete.
Looking to the future

In thinking about the long-term lessons from COVID-19 and the changes that schools can and should implement, Dr. Homes and Dr. Orzel identified the following key points:

  • Identify what is most important and focus on those priorities
  • Doing less will result in doing more
  • Focus on equity and ensuring that real opportunities are available for all students and for each student
  • Emphasize personalization to make learning meaningful and to ensure that everyone feels connected and part of their school community
  • Identify the strengths of the school or district, and then work hard to do those things even better
  • Focus on supporting teachers–They have the biggest impact on student learning
  • Trust that educators can do great work regardless of where they are in their career journey – from their first year to their last year
  • Emphasize the importance of adaptability for all educators
November 2020

Amplifying Solutions – Creativity in staffing with COVID-19

Each episode of Amplifying Solutions focuses on questions and challenges from practitioners, primarily current graduate students earning their degrees to become the next generation of principals, school business leaders, and superintendents, as well as those students who are earning their doctoral degrees. In response to these questions, experts are brought together to discuss solutions and strategies. The complete video conversation is included below.

In this episode of Amplifying Solutions, Monica Schroeder from North Shore School District 112 and Matt Zediker from Rockford Public School District 205 discuss their organization’s approaches to staffing during the very dynamic COVID-19 Pandemic. When schools initially moved to remote learning in March 2020, staffing plans for the 2020-2021 school year were nearly complete. Over the next five months leading up to the start of this school year, school districts continued to face changing guidelines and a wide range of expectations, opinions, and pressures from various stakeholder groups.

Each school district offered teachers the opportunity to apply to serve as remote learning teachers.

Planning for Multiple Schedules

Like districts throughout Illinois, both NSSD112 and RPS205 had to plan for students who would be learning remotely and for students who would be learning in-person at times as part of a hybrid model.

Both districts were going to require a significant number of teachers that would be assigned to remote teaching positions as a result of surveys of families during the summer of 2020, and this resulted in the need to move staff members into positions different from those in which they had originally been assigned.

From these initial experiences, the following keys to successfully navigating this COVID-19 environment emerged:

  • Listening – Having relationships already in place prior to the crisis provides a strong foundation for success. Then, it is critical for leaders to intentionally build time in their schedules to be in schools listening to staff members concerns and challenges and questions.
  • Empathy – School leaders must put themselves in the shoes of others from staff members to students to parents. When a leader can deeply understand the challenges (and feelings) that others face, they are able to craft solutions that better address a wider range of issues, and they are better able to communicate those solutions to stakeholders.
  • Collaboration – Collaboration among and with union leaders, board members, and administrators on a consistent and ongoing basis is critical to creating solutions that will meet the needs of each school district as well as successfully implementing those solutions.
  • Articulate why – While specific people may not always like certain decisions, if they understand the rationale behind the decision, how it benefits students, and why it is a fair decision and/or a good use of limited resources, they will typically accept, and even support, the decision.
  • Know the law – The pandemic has brought with it unique scenarios related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Additionally, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act resulted in additional, important legal parameters for school leaders to know. As is mentioned in the discussion, school law firms have provided a significant amount of ongoing, free professional development to support school leaders since the start of the pandemic.

In thinking about the long-term take-aways for the future of education, the following items were identified as being important areas of emphasis in a post-COVID-19 world of learning:

  • Emphasize learning and de-emphasize seat time; Focus on supporting all students with achieving outcomes
  • Continue focusing on the importance of social and emotional learning
  • Be flexible
  • Be creative
  • Continue to foster an “all-hands on-deck” culture, including having families be integrated into our learning processes
  • Remind teachers and staff that they won’t be able to be everything to everyone and support them in being the best that they can be right now.
November 2020

Launching Amplifying Solutions

The Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology, and Foundations (LEPF) in the Northern Illinois University College of Education has joined forces with the Illinois P-20 Network to launch a series of videos, web-based events, and blog posts on important topics that have been identified by current teachers and administrators who are also graduate students in and alumni of LEPF programs.

The videos, events and blog posts that result from this partnership will be available publicly, and educators are encouraged to share this content throughout their professional networks.

Initial episodes are being recorded at this time, and content will begin being posted this week both in the Newsfeed of the P-20 Network website and on the P-20 Network YouTube Channel.

November 2020

An Integrated, Comprehensive Approach to Career Readiness

Maine Township High School District 207, located in Park Ridge and Des Plaines, Illinois just north of O’Hare Airport, has developed a comprehensive approach to career readiness with its Integrated Career Services Team and their work with students, teachers and counselors, and community partners.

A meaningful career experience for
each student, each year.

Ken Wallace, Maine 207 Superintendent

Over the past five years, Maine 207 has focused on the development of career readiness that is:

  • accessible for all students and for each student
  • integrated throughout the school day
  • diverse in experiences from guest speakers in classes and clubs to paid internships
  • aligned with workforce needs in our communities and is aligned with students’ interests and passions
  • engaging for community members and organizations through their partnerships with the school district and their work with students

Connecting with Community Partners

In addition to the superintendent, the district’s leadership team, and the high school principals, the Integrated Career Services Team provides a very important public face for Maine 207 with the community. The Integrated Services Team creates and sustains relationships with business partners that engage in everything from serving as guest speakers to providing full internship experiences with students. To date, Maine 207 has developed a network of 700 community partners. Acknowledging that this number and range of partnerships may not be the same in our diverse communities across Illinois, all school districts already have relationships with businesses and community groups. Those relationships can and should be leveraged into real partnerships to support student learning generally and career experiences specifically.

Intentional Planning that Builds Over Time for Students

As can be seen in the two images below from the Maine 207 Integrated Career Services Team, the district’s work around career readiness focuses on long-term planning that extends into the middle schools and that builds upon itself with each passing year of high school.

In each of the above examples, the experiences start out as shorter experiences designed, over the course of multiple experiences, to give students an understanding of a broad range of potential careers. This is both developmentally appropriate for most ninth and tenth grade students, and it recognizes that, coming into high school, most students have a very limited understanding of what different careers and workplaces look and feel like in-action. Often times, younger high school students only have an intimate knowledge of the careers of their own adult family members, some other adults that they may know well, and their teachers. Even in these cases, they are likely to only have a limited, more superficial understanding of these careers. The approach taken by Maine 207’s plan is designed to address this head-on by potentially providing students with a strong foundation across many different career pathways. Starting ninth and tenth graders with everything from guest speakers to field trips to volunteer opportunities is also flexible enough to allow individual students to start focusing more specifically on individual career pathways in which they already think they have a greater interest.

Connecting Career Readiness to Engaging Instruction

Importantly, the career readiness activities also integrate with Maine 207’s focus on ensuring that all classes are designed around highly engaging learning. As career experiences are integrated into a wide range of classes, there are opportunities for teachers to more effectively and easily design instruction around authentic learning opportunities that allow students to both learn about careers and to learn concepts, content, and skills more deeply.

A Series and Sequence of Career Experiences

As students move into eleventh and twelfth grades, there are increasingly opportunities for more in-depth work-based learning experiences. These are varied as they allow for the different needs of students, the different natures of different careers and workplaces, and the different requirements and capacities of various partners.

As mentioned earlier, guest speakers are invited in to classrooms throughout the schools and across all grade levels. While Maine 207 has long been a worldwide leader in educational technology including being Google’s original school district partner for Google Apps (known today as Google Workplace), schools far-and-wide have become comfortable with online meetings and classes as a result of the pandemic. The increased access to technology and acceptance of remote meeting and learning tools has made engaging guest speakers with students easier than ever before. Additionally, these same tools allow even more students to benefit from a guest speaker than was previously the case as a result of being able to have more than 25-30 students in the “room” with the students and as a result of being able to record a session with a guest speaker and share it with students later.

Career Treks and Job Shadowing experiences provide more in-depth opportunities to interact with professionals and to see and understand workplaces. As the slides above from the Maine 207 Integrated Career Services Team remind:

  • These experiences can take advantage of other already-established programs, such as Junior Achievement.
  • These experiences can and should take place in businesses, but they can and should also take place in other organizations, including other governmental agencies and in our own school districts. (Many Illinois school districts have started job shadowing and internships with their own Operations, Information Technology, and Business Services staffs. Of course, many Illinois school districts also do not have one or more of these key areas in-house as standalone departments due to either their size or available resources.)

Maine Township High School District 207 offers students both formal and informal internship opportunities. The formal internship is structured around a scheduled class period. In this scenario, the student and the school internship supervisor meet one period per week to check-in and discuss the internship. The informal internship does not include that scheduled class period and weekly check-in. There are a variety of options for when students actually participate in their internships, both during and beyond the school day, and these scenarios are based on both the student’s needs as well as the needs and parameters in place with the organization providing the internship. Maine 207 has approximately 450 students participating in formal internships, and there are additional students participating in informal internships. Between 5 and 15% of the internships have been paid internships.

For more information…

Maine Township High School District 207 Career Exploration website
The Maine 207 Career Exploration website provides up-to-date information on upcoming events as well as dashboards for students and parents, community partners, and staff members. Additionally, staff member information is available, including the opportunity to schedule meetings directly with the team members.

The Integrated Career Services Team at Maine East, Maine West, and Maine South High Schools also actively posts information on Instagram as another medium from which they can communicate with students in addition to the website, emails, and school announcements.

November 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Denise Hoth – Surgical Instrument Specialist Management

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logo

Since students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.

In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Denise Hoth, who is a surgical instrument specialist that has now also become the manager of a team of surgical instrument specialists. As is discussed in the episode, surgical instrument specialists maintain and repair a wide range of tools used in surgery. Denise became a surgical tech after attending school at Triton College, and as a result of her work in that field, she had the opportunity to move into becoming a surgical instrument specialist. In this episode, Denise explains that her pathway to her current role is one of many potential avenues is as evidenced by the range of background experiences of her team of surgical instrument specialists.

The work that Denise does as a surgical instrument specialist. is part of both the Health & Technology and the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathways. Given the time she spends managing financial, operational, and human resources issues, her work is also part of the Business & Finance Career Pathway.

In this episode, Denise explains the nature of the work that surgical instrument specialists do each day, including their working environment in the mobile service labs in the box truck that each surgical instrument specialist on her team drives. Denise explains how it is important that everyone in this role has strong mechanical skills, and that it is important to have integrity, strong verbal communication skills, and be able to work independently. Denise also stresses that this is a field with quite a bit of opportunity, and that a focus on customer service is the number one priority for each employee in her company.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video with surgical instrument specialist and manager Denise Hoth.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

November 2020