Staff Focus: Stephanie Discepolo, CTE Resource Teacher
March 12th, 2019
Career and Technology Education (CTE) Resource Teacher Stephanie Discepolo still remembers picking her undergraduate major by process of elimination at a college event. Though she “got lucky” and chose speech pathology, which supported her interest in helping others, she never ended up working in the field. She witnessed countless college friends go through similar early career switches, and always wondered if these pivots could have been avoided with more guidance and real world experiences.
Discepolo took her first career step in special education. She spent seven years helping students with disabilities reach their greatest potential through roles at Cedar Lane School, Oakland Mills High School, Wilde Lake High School and in a transition program for students aged 18-21 years old.
“When I started in special education, it was about life and career skills and gearing students for independence,” Discepolo said. “So moving to Career and Technology Education was in alignment with what I’d already done–all my projects have aligned with career development.”
Discepolo—who has dedicated her entire career to HCPSS—has since been working as a CTE resource teacher for 18 years. Generally, she works with local organizations to develop and grow programs for students, mentors new teachers, facilitates professional development for CTE teachers, advises students on post-secondary opportunities, runs the Career Academies Summer Programs, oversees the marketing of CTE programs, organizes special events like the Women in Engineering conference and more.
“If you ask people who know me, they’ll say I fight for the underdog. It’s that student who needs that extra hand,” Discepolo said. She believes the key to engaging students is encouraging them to take the first step: “My biggest philosophy about education is the ‘gym philosophy,’ once you get them coming to the gym, you got them, then it’s our job to help them be successful.”
Discepolo has helped take HCPSS’ career development opportunities to the next level. More than 10 years ago, she developed the Career Research and Development Academy (CRD), which became the model adopted by the Maryland State Department of Education. She then created Passport to the Future, a workforce preparation program in partnership with the Howard County Chamber of Commerce to match CRD students’ employment interests with the community’s hiring needs.
In the last couple of years, she has led the way in bringing three new opportunities for HCPSS students. She helped create the first electrician pre-apprenticeship program in the state, and partnered with Community College of Baltimore County and Tree Care Industry Association to help launch an arborist apprenticeship program. She is now working on developing the career academy, Apprenticeship Maryland, for manufacturing and STEM fields, for fall 2019.
Every program involves collaboration and support from local organizations. Discepolo, an HCPSS alumna who has lived in Howard County her whole life, said “I grew up in this community, so I’m fortunate to know a lot of people here. Organizations will approach me about opportunities, and since I’m always looking for better, site-based work for students, my answer is always ‘yes.’”
CTE Coordinator Sharon Kramer describes Discepolo as “just amazing, with boundless energy, enthusiasm and passion for expanding horizons and exploring career opportunities for students. Her leadership, vision and drive have enabled CTE to continue evolving its programming, all in the name of making students’ lives better.”
Overall, what makes Discepolo happiest is “being able to help students at any age find their passion and pathway. And in CTE, kids from around the county come together with like interests, so they support each other. I love watching them–they want to be here.”