Victoria Coney, Simeon Career Academy, Chicago Public Schools, Illinois
For the past 20 years, Victoria Coney has dedicated her life to educating teens, and the last 10 years to career and technical education. Previously a business teacher who taught accounting, business math, and business law, Coney’s decision to work more closely with career and technical education evolved from technology becoming a greater part of the classroom and workforce.
“I saw technology becoming a part of everyday life, becoming a part of my curriculum as a business teacher and thought that students need to know more about computers,” explained Coney.
As the Work Experience Career Exploration Program (WECEP) coordinator and an information technology (IT) teacher at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, Illinois, Coney works closely with her students to ensure they are career ready. WECEP is a state approved training program that prepares youth for entry level employment and allows students to work two to three hours a day and receive a wage. Within the program, students are learning about future training and education opportunities related to their various career interests and taking the steps to apply, interview, and be on a job. Her hands-on teaching approach has Coney actively showing her students how to do lessons before they repeat the tasks on their own and are able to explain the information to her in their own words.
“Seeing that light come on, the enthusiasm in understanding a topic or lesson is my favorite aspect of teaching,” she said, “There are a lot of times we are learning and finding out answers together, and that’s amazing.”
Throughout the course, Coney’s WECEP students are preparing for real world work experience, learning and practicing how to interview for a job position, building their own real resumes and cover letters, and learning about workplace safety.
Five years ago, Coney made the decision to increase the safety education her students were receiving by implementing CareerSafe OSHA 10-Hour General Industry training in her classroom.
“We have a chapter on safety in our textbook, but we haven’t done much with it, because CareerSafe works through everything in more detail,” said Coney. She goes on to explain that many of her students are going to work every day and have previously not been aware of the dangers at their place of employment. She decided to work with the CareerSafe program in order to give her students more information on dangers they may not have the opportunity to learn about otherwise. The industry recognized credential, Coney said, “is something for them to put onto their resumes and explain to employers that they have had safety training when they fill out applications.”
Coney says she’s pleased that her students are relating workplace safety information to various other topics in class and to their work; sometimes even commenting to her that they correct a workplace hazard at work.
With the dedication and hard work of educators like Victoria Coney, we are able to educate students in high school not only for entry-level jobs, but also do our part to prepare them for the rest of their lives.