Alyson Manion is the Career & Technology Education Department Lead and Fine Arts Department Lead at Digital Harbor High School, where she also advises the Yearbook club.
What are the challenges of leading the CTE department at Digital Harbor High School? How do you rise to those challenges?
Digital Harbor High School is a Career and Technology Education focused school to which I have the honor of working at and have since 2006. I made the shift from Fine Arts teacher to CTE lead a few years ago and in that first year I faced a great deal of challenges. I not only had to get to know the teachers in the five pathways, but I needed to get a handle on curriculum, industry certifications, regulations, compile and sort unfamiliar data all while learning strengths and weaknesses, in all aspects of our team. The 14 teachers I have the honor and pleasure to work with, serve and support deliver to me a wide variety of challenges from technical to personal and everything mixed between. As a new leader a challenge has been learning to support the individuals on our team while keeping the students at the heart of all we do. I feel that in learning about and understanding the teachers in our department and empowering them with their strengths better enables me to help develop career pathways. I believe in leading by example, holding high standards and always keeping our students in the center of our work. Like everything in life finding balance is often the most challenging thing to achieve no matter what you are trying to balance. As a new mom, new leader in a new content I challenge myself every day to learn from and support my team. I challenge myself to be better than the day before and I challenge myself to handle whatever comes my way in a manner in which I can continue to hold my head up. In many ways then, the biggest challenge I face is myself as I strive to improve and push my team so that ultimately we are growing, supporting and loving our students so when we send them off into life after high school they have skills that make them competitive in college or more marketable as they step out into industry careers.
Tell us about your work with the DHHS yearbook club. What is your role? Why is this project important to you?
At a time in life when we are surrounded by technology, social media, pictures and answers at our fingertips I more firmly believe in the importance of a high school yearbook. As the yearbook adviser it is an important memory for me to give our students because it is all inclusive. Unlike social media or other outlets where users share thoughts, experiences and pride, a school yearbook is a permanent keepsake and for many a trophy of their greatest accomplishment to date. Over the years I have watched students struggle in high school and I have seen the pride on their face when they stand there in their cap and gown. How can I not help give my students a book that is so meaningful. How can I not give them a gift of the best times they had during their high school careers? How can I note give them permanent memories and advice from teachers that they both loved and loathed? For me, the yearbook is a work of pride. I work with a 10 of approximately 10 students who act as historians documenting everything from classwork to prom to clubs and trips. We collect information about future dreams and honor students for their accomplishments. This is the fifth year I have been tasked with this monumental memory and each year it becomes more embedded in my heart.
What is your involvement with BTU? Why is it important for teachers and PSRPs to be active in the union?
As a dues paying member of the BTU I am active in our union. I always make sure I am fully informed and aware of what the BTU is doing, their goals and mission. I never miss an election and attend meetings within my school building. It is important for teachers and PSRP’s to be active in the union because they are the union. The union is not 5800 metro drive, the union are the active workers in the buildings each day in front of our students. It is important to get involved in any level. Throughout my own career there have been times when I was really active and times like now when a baby says otherwise. But I believe in my voice in the union and even with my baby in tow, show up when I know I must. I always urge others to do the same, stay informed, stay involved and participate as much as you can, because you are the union.
What kind of things would you like to see BTU focus on in the future?
I would like to see the BTU focus on teacher retention. There are a variety of ways to do that and there are multiple layers to teacher retention. While our newest teachers to the profession seem to get a lot of attention, I think they could use other supports to aide in that retention. Then in true spirit of differentiation there is the retention of veteran teachers as well. I know the BTU wears a lot of hats and while this might seem like it is something more for the district to provide, I also believe the BTU could focus in this arena as well. By developing and retaining teachers our students benefit and the working parts all start to run smoothly together and ultimately student achievement grows by leaps and bounds which is the reason we are all here.