Sandel.jpg2019 President’s Message: We Are All Influencers
Michael A. Sandell, DTE

It took the influence of another educator to help me find the experiences in state and national conferences that have helped me reshape the educational experiences that I provide for my students. 

My interest in technology and engineering education is a culmination of childhood experiences, enjoying the “hands on, minds on” classes that I was able to take in high school. While I had many career aspirations, becoming a teacher was not one that I had considered. I had an interest in drafting, love of woodworking and an interest in mechanical devices that included taking them apart and sometimes getting them back together without any spare parts.

In junior and senior high I became a “shop rat,” taking any and every class that I could fit in my schedule.

During my sophomore year my shop teacher asked if I would help with the 7th grade classes as a teaching assistant. I was asked to work with students who struggled learning the drawing processes. During a conversation about my TA work, this teacher suggested that I think about becoming an Industrial Arts instructor. By the end of the year, I had made the decision to investigate education as a career.

I completed my teacher training in 1982 and began my teaching career in a small school with a one-room shop. I taught woods, drafting and construction, using the skills and a curriculum similar to what I had experienced in high school.

During this time, I became acquainted with two Industrial Arts instructors at our church who invited me to a UW Stout Fall Conference. What an eye-opening experience, this was the beginning of the era of Technology Education and I was introduced to classroom innovations that would enhance my curriculum and provide up-to-date knowledge and skills to my students. With the information gained and ability to network with other teachers, I began to investigate innovations to the base curriculum that I was teaching. Through this invitation, I became a regular at the UW Stout Conferences and later MTEEA and ITEEA Conferences.

Through these MTEEA and ITEEA conference experiences, I became aware of the trend to change traditional shop programs into Industrial Technology programs, integrating problem solving as part of the shop process. I have integrated innovations in educational strategies to develop a curriculum that provides my students with the most up-to-date knowledge and skills needed to be productive in today’s job market.

In all this, it took the influence of another educator to help me find the experiences in state and national conferences that have helped me reshape the educational experiences that I provide for my students. 

In my 37 years in the classroom, I have witnessed the changes from simply Industrial Arts to Industrial Technology to Technology Education and now the integration of STEM into our programs. I have gone from teaching classes in which students are given a choice of projects to complete to one in which they are given problems to solve. A classroom where students have gone from working on individual projects for their own use—to working as part of a team to develop creative solutions to a problem of the group’s selection.

I have also seen the decline of funding for programs over the past 10 years as many districts in our state continue to face difficult financial times. Many districts have closed programs or switched to six-period days, which reduces opportunities for students to take elective classes. 

During this decline, there was an excess of Technology and engineering teachers and fewer and fewer students entered this teaching field. Now that many of us are nearing retirement, there are T&E teaching jobs that go unfilled across the country each year. This decline in the number of teachers also made for a decline in the number of members in ITEEA and the state affiliate organizations.

This has presented challenges to both ITEEA and state organizations. Challenges that we, as leaders and at the forefront of state level organizations are facing head on. In the course of the next year, my emphasis as ITEEA President will be to work on the following challenges. With the leadership of the ITEEA board of directors,  the work of ITEEA committee and task force members, state affiliate reps, and state associations, we can make a difference.  

New Teacher Recruitment and Retention

We are all aware of the need for increasing the number of students in our teacher preparation programs. As teachers, we have complete access to the students who will be the next generation of technology and engineering educators. We need to identify these students in our classes and encourage them to enter education to become the next generation of Technology and Engineering educators.

Engage Membership and Increase Participation

In addition to recruitment, we need to build our network of educators at the local, state, national and international levels. My involvement in MTEEA and ITEEA was the result of another teacher’s invitation to attend a conference. As part of the ITEEA leadership team, we are constantly looking for ways to increase the valuable information and tools for the members who receive our publications and attend our conferences.

Increase Communication and Visibility to Current Members, Stakeholders, and the Public

We need to identify the best means to communicate with our members. As one who grew up in the pre-internet age, moving past email as a communication has been a stretch. ITEEA has developed multiple communication channels; now we need to make sure that our stakeholders are receiving our message.

Also, as educators, we need to be willing to share our experience with those who are just starting out. ITEEA has created the IdeaGarden, which provides a way for teachers to share what we are doing and what is working with other members. This should become the number one resource for members looking for a new idea or classroom activity. Remember, we are “the experts” in integrative STEM education, lets share what works with our membership!

Remember That we are Technology and Engineering Education

Technology and Engineering education is the content area that we provide for our students. Ever since I started teaching those many years ago, I have had students recall what they had learned in their science and math classes in order to solve problems in drafting and manufacturing. While STEM has been and continues to be the “buzzword” driving changes in education, we need to remember that we have been STEM integrators. If anything, we need to further connect what students have learned in their core classes with the application in T&E education.

For those of us that have chosen education, we need to continue to adapt our content knowledge and skills to reflect the technological advances of today’s world. We need to continue to provide our students knowledge, skills and tools to succeed in today’s economy. We also need to meet the challenges facing Technology and Engineering education. Each of us need to recommend education as a career field to one of our students. We need to invite a teacher to a local, state or national conference, or share that great project through the IdeaGarden. 

As members and leaders of ITEEA we need to work together, provide support for one another, and continue to be the “doers” and “creators” that find the way and build the bridges to further the goals of our profession.

I hope that you have enjoyed this year's conference and I look forward to seeing each of you next year in Baltimore. My challenge to you is to bring a friend!

Thank you for all that you do for ITEEA. 


Michael A. Sandell, DTE, is 2019-2020 President of ITEEA. Mike is in his 34th year as a classroom teacher at Chisago Lakes High School in Lindstrom, Minnesota. In these leadership roles he strives to find the proper mix of training for all students from experiential level to those who will become the technicians and engineers of the future. He can be reached at msandell@iteea.org