Erin Hunter, MEd '08

Experienced Educators - Critical Skills

Erin Hunter graduated in May, 2008 with an MEd with a concentration in Critical Skills. She teaches carpentry at the River Valley Technical Center (RVTC) in Springfield, Vermont. During her first year in Antioch University New England’s Experienced Educators Program, Erin won the national award for Outstanding Industrial Trades Teacher. Here Erin writes about AUNE and the Critical Skills model.

Critical Skills at Core of Carpentry Program

I’d heard a lot about Antioch’s alternative education approach and its very good reputation for designing programs that could help me in the real world. I didn’t want to just go and sit in lectures-I wanted to learn what I could do to be more effective at what I do. AUNE lived up to its reputation as all of my studies were anchored in my own classroom. My observations were done in my own classroom, my writing was about my classroom, and all of the assignments were geared toward “What does this have to do with your classroom?”

I came to Antioch to become a better teacher. When I learned about the Critical Skills concentration, I realized that it offered the perfect foundation for the way I want to help my students develop. The Critical Skills model was developed by a group of business people who looked at the skills and dispositions students should have when they have finished their schooling and are ready to enter the real world. The model combines four pillars of education: experiential education, problem-based learning, standards-based (or outcome-based) learning, and collaborative (community-building) learning. I teach carpentry, a career that’s a natural fit for the Critical Skills model. It focuses on problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, creative thinking, communication, organization, management, and leadership.

Carving Character Out of Every Student

When I send a student out into the world, I want him or her to be a life-long learner, a worker who is self-directed and committed to quality, a person of ethical character, and a collaborative worker. These qualities are even more important than the student’s technical skills. I’ve never had an employer say, “Hey, can you teach them how to run a saw better?” That employer is far more likely to ask, “Can you teach them to be reliable?” Even if my students go into other careers besides carpentry, these critical skills will help them no matter what occupation they choose and make them valued employees.

It’s very clear that Antioch University New England gave me just what I wanted and helped me become better at what I do. My whole experience at AUNE was wonderful. One of the things I loved the most was going through the program with other educators, sharing common experiences and learning from peers who are exploring the same questions I am. You develop a bond with fellow students who share your goals and aspirations.