When Highland Park High School (HPHS) teacher Erica Tuke received the 2016 New Teacher of the Year Award from the Technology Education Association of Illinois, she was applauded for her vision for narrowing the gender gap and encouraging minority involvement in engineering classes. She was also saluted for co-sponsoring STEM-W, a group promoting increased STEM opportunities for young women at HPHS. Her use of technology gives her high schoolers access to lessons and tutorials from home 24/7.

Tuke earned her bachelor’s in studio art and art education from the University of Iowa. Five years into her teaching career, she enrolled in Ball State’s fully online master of arts in career and technical education.

Q: You said that you wanted to pursue graduate work so you could learn the latest teaching practices related to CTE. What led you to Ball State’s program?

A: I’m surrounded by many excellent universities and CTE programs in Illinois, but many of them don’t offer graduate or online programs. During my research, I found that Ball State had an incredibly reputable online bachelor’s degree program, so I assumed that their graduate programs were equally as reputable. It would have been difficult for me to commute back and forth from Chicago, so it made Ball State a no-brainer decision.

Q: What was the most immediate impact of the degree?

A: Many of the assignments completed during the program could be tailored to what we were doing in the classroom. For example, one assignment asked us to create a lesson plan on a CTE topic of our choosing. We were able to implement these lessons as soon as the following week after getting feedback from our professor. Being able to bring these plans to life allowed me to experience success and failure while getting feedback from my professor and my online peers.

Q: How did the program make you a better teacher?

A: My online peers were giving incredibly thoughtful responses to tough questions, which is something I wanted my high school students to also emulate. By offering more avenues for student voice, my classroom community has been stronger, and everybody’s voices are able to be heard.

I think CTE education is moving toward enhancing 21st century learning skills—pushing problem- and project-based learning. My experience at Ball State only reinforced this philosophy.

Erica Tuke

Erika Tuke

Job Title: 3D Animation/Engineering Teacher at Highland Park High School, Highland Park, IL

Degree: M.A. Career and Technology Education, Teacher Track

Graduation Year: 2016