When the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Career and Technical Education (CTE) cosmetology school launched a new virtual learning tool, Pivot Point, in early 2020, they didn’t know how soon and often they’d be using it.
“We thought we’d be able to take the rest of the spring and summer to slowly roll out the program,” said Cosmetology CTE Pathway lead Colette Wiliams.
In March, the district quickly transitioned to remote learning. This included the CTE cosmetology programs at North Mecklenburg, West Charlotte and West Mecklenburg high schools. “We saw a lot of flexibility and creativity from our teachers,” said Williams. “They did what needed to be done to support our students.”
The cosmetology school is licensed by the North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners and follows all state and local regulations. Practitioners are required to have 1,500 hours of instruction to apply for a cosmetology license. CMS students graduate with 1,200 hours that can be transferred to another program for completion. “This offers our students the chance to graduate with a career almost entirely under their belt,” said Williams. “This is important because some for-profit cosmetology school programs can cost up to $40,000 a year. Our program puts our students ahead of the game.”
After completing their first year in the program, students are enrolled in Cosmetology 2 where they work with clients in a full-service salon. Students provide services with instructor supervision. Since students haven’t been able to get that practice, Pivot Point has provided students with opportunities to get hands-on experience. Pivot Point is an online learning lab that offers videos, models and practice exercises for students. Students will be receiving kits that include the scissors, brushes, clips and other tools they’ll need to do the work from home.
“The transition was very different,” said Wanda Cutter, a cosmetology instructor at West Mecklenburg High. “I really wasn’t a fan of hearing myself talk. I kept thinking, ‘This is so weird!’ But our students love it. I think it’s going really well so far.”
Cutter is a 1998 graduate of Olympic High. She was enrolled in the district’s cosmetology program and finished her program at a cosmetology school. She worked in and managed several salons before deciding to teach. “Someone said to me, ‘I think you would be a good teacher,’ and I kept thinking about that,” she said. “I decided to go for it.”
She started teaching at the collegiate level in Gaston County before joining CMS. “High school students are very different from college students,” said Cutter. “I had to learn how to adjust my teaching for each student. I picked up a strategy to identify where each student is and teach them where they are. Sometimes I pair the students up so they can learn from each other. Or I can work with them individually until they understand something. I love that moment when they figure out something new.”
Cutter has been working to recreate those moments in a virtual learning environment. “The first few days were rocky, but now we are rocking and rolling,” said Cutter. “It’s taken a little bit longer to get the Cosmetology 1 students going compared to the Cosmetology 2 students, but we’re in a good place now.”
After completing her own professional development, Cutter leads her school’s performance learning community. She believes in setting an example of lifelong learning for her students. “I tell my students that I am an adult and am still learning,” she said. “This is our new norm, and we are going to work our way right through it.”