Joseph Gaestel, a teacher of Business & Technology at Merced High School, is transforming the educational experience of his students enrolled in the CTE course, IT Essentials. Upon entering his 6th Period IT Essentials class, one might mistake it for a small IT startup company as one becomes immersed in the organized operations system of Chromebook repairs. The students are collaborating by using multiple methods to solve issues such as broken screens, battery replacements, replacing keyboards, and other technical matters. As various issues arise, students seek out their peers before they approach Mr. Gaestel for guidance and support. When one communicates with the students, one can see the passion and empowerment which has allowed them to advance quickly in their IT skills in just a few weeks. Mr. Gaestel confirmed that not only were students advancing in IT skills, but also in developing individual identities.
What are the challenges in teaching IT Essentials?
The biggest challenge was the unknown of how to set up the lab and developing the procedures to run the repair lab efficiently. As with the students, I operate in a very collaborative environment. Sandy Fairfield at Atwater has been invaluable in getting my lab up and running. Virginia Bryant and district support has been just great. After these first few weeks, there are procedures that need to be updated. For example, the students, in their enthusiasm, will have a Chromebook repaired before I can get it logged in the spreadsheet. The next challenge is starting with the Cisco curriculum. Teaching this for the first time, the proper pacing for the students will be the next adjustment. I feel the students will enjoy the academic side as well as the hands-on repair side. My long-term goal is to have the students take donated computers, refurbish them and then give them to students who cannot afford current technology. It is all about providing students access.
How are IT Essentials impacting students?
From the short time, we have been open this year. I see the students showing much more confidence in their own decision making and problem-solving skills. They operate in a very safe and collaborative environment. If one student runs into a problem, the group with help solve the repair issue. Most of these students I have had before and the improvement in their on-task behavior is fantastic. They have not thought of playing games or looking at their phones. The bell always rings with their head down working on a repair.
What do you love about your IT Essentials class and students?
Aside from the improvement in their behavior and problem-solving skills, I love that this class will give them the opportunity to explore a side of computers that they did not have access to before. The hands-on experience motivates this student beyond any regular class. They see the end of the tunnel and the opportunity for themselves in a future career that really isn't "work" for them.
with Mr. Gaestel
Interviewing and interacting with Mr. Gaestel’s 6th Period IT Essentials class was enjoyable and enlightening. The students hold an immense amount of respect for their teacher due to the creative freedom and organized structure that Mr. Gaestel has provided them to become successful in any career they decide to pursue. IT Essentials is not only about contributing back to MHS by repairing Chromebooks, but also how to be a problem solver and critical thinker in an era where we desperately need collaborative co-workers and members of society.