Part 2 of the 3 R’s of Education: Real World Relevance


As schools across the country delve into a new year, I want to bring my readers back to teaching basics with Part 2 of my Three R’s series on Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. Here's Part 1. As students flood our halls and classrooms, are they eager and excited for the challenging year ahead? Do they lament the end of carefree summer days? Or are they simply focused on how they can capture the attention of the guy or girl they have had a crush on since last year? Teachers enter classrooms refreshed and energized, but enthusiasm alone will not garner buy-in from our students. We need to sell them on the value of what they are learning by connecting the dots through real world relevance. How is this curriculum relevant to our students’ interests, backgrounds or futures? Kids may go through the motions of learning, but will not truly believe what we are teaching them until we make it relevant to the real world.

There are endless ways that teachers can make curriculum more relevant with a little added effort. I have seen lesson plans swirling through the internet regarding the recent Southeast earthquake and Hurricane Irene. Whether they are the focus of lessons in science, math, social studies, or English, they are a timely and interesting start to the year. However, when I think of the finest examples of relevance in the classroom, I have to highlight the subject matter I taught for the past seven years, Career and Technical Education (CTE). In no other content area do I see more cross-curricular infusion of math and literacy skills combined with a focus on college and career readiness. CTE teachers have the joy and challenge of teaching diverse students of mixed grades and ability levels. We also have an “ace in the hole” with cross-industry student organizations that extend rich learning experiences beyond the physical and time boundaries of schools:

Career and Technical Student Organizations:

When I taught high school business, marketing, and computer software courses, I had bright entrepreneurs who actually earned income through their own landscaping and construction businesses. I had classes that earned over $25,000 for our school through events such as Battle of the Bands, Fashion Shows, and fundraisers for Habitat for Humanity, food banks, and disaster relief organizations. Connecting students to the community, world of work, college prep, financial literacy, and sound citizenry is what CTE is all about.

SAS has recognized the need to offer relevant courses to prepare students to be college and career ready through SAS Programming for High School.

“SAS has opened a new world of programming to students, where they can see the cross over between the classroom and real world applications,” - Sharon Jones, SAS Programming HS Institute Graduate and CTE Teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The SAS Programming courses are included by the NC Department of Public Instruction, the NC Virtual School, the SC Department of Education, and a growing number of private schools and state education agencies as part of their course offerings.  SAS trains teachers over five days every summer and offers internationally recognized certification exams, which correlate with the high school courses. With teacher training and relevant curriculum, today’s students will no longer “learn to do” but rather “do to learn.”  I am proud that SAS is contributing to this effort.

“My high school SAS class helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my life … computer science.” - Samantha Heck, Apex High School Graduate, NC


About Author

Nadja Young

Senior Manager, Education Consulting

Hi, I’m Nadja Young. I’m a wife and mother of two who loves to dance, cook, and travel. As SAS’ Senior Manager for Education Industry Consulting, I strive to help education agencies turn data into actionable information to better serve children and families. I aim to bridge the gaps between analysts, practitioners, and policy makers to put data to better use to improve student outcomes. Prior to joining SAS, I spent seven years as a high school Career and Technical Education teacher certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. I taught in Colorado’s Douglas County School District, in North Carolina’s Wake County Public School System, and contracted with the NC Department of Public Instruction to write curriculum and assessments. I’m thrilled to be able to combine my Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing Management and Master of Arts degree in Secondary Education to improve schools across the country.


  1. Hi Nadja,
    You are absolutely correct. Much of what the experts are saying about education reform looks like what CTE educators have been doing for a long time. I hear a lot of talk about rigor & relevance, relationships STEM, STEAM and 21st century skills but I see very little of that being practiced in our schools. I teach Drafting /CAD / Visualization and my students go on to study architecture, engineering and a variety of technical disciplines. They understand what and why they must learn the content.

    I think it is time for CTE Educators to make their voices heard and lead in the efforts to reform education in this country. Thanks for the blog!!!

    • Thanks for the comment, David. I hope you continue to make your voice heard and show how Career & Technical Education can really be the bridge between college AND career readiness. Your students are living proof of that!

  2. Pingback: Part 3 of the 3 R’s of Education: Relationships that Raise Learning - State and Local Connection

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