Christine Ireland, Architecture and Interior Design

An eye on design . . . to teach

Periodically we’ll be sitting down with one of our standout educators to talk about their unique perspective on the world of Career and Technical Education and what motivates them the most.

Fifteen years ago, Christine Ireland arrived on campus to teach Architecture and Design. She had spent 10 years as a designer at a firm but knew in her heart that the classroom was where she wanted to be.

Finding her place here fulfilled a dream she did not think was possible.

“There just were not that many job openings,” she said, not only for teaching, but specifically teaching architecture and design, when she started her search for a teaching position.

What began as a basic program, has grown to a blended program serving a mix of students, some with special needs. Ms. Ireland teaches iCTE and secondary students.

What has also changed are the needs of her students. When she began teaching, Ms. Ireland said she thought students were displaying more disciplinary issues. Today, learning disabilities are more common.

In her program, students learn several design software programs, including Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Google SketchUp, along with AutoCAD and more. They also study and practice perspective drawing and rendering 3D objects like buildings and more.

“We do a lot with universal design, color theory, furniture, space planning and layout,” Ms. Ireland said, adding that the universal design industry has grown recently as had the interest of her students in designing buildings for all.

As the mother of a special needs son, Ms. Ireland says she had an interest in assuring all her students are served to the best of her ability. To that end, she recently took it upon herself to complete courses enabling her to be nationally board certified in special education advocacy through the National Special Education Advocacy Institute. She has since become a Fellow and Advisory Board Member to advise on strategies for transitioning special needs students into the workforce.

“I felt it’s been really helpful. I can help parents more,” she said of the certification. “Some of my students are here from age 16 to 21. We have a lot of time to make them as successful as they can be.”

Being named a fellow was an honor given only because of the coursework she completed but also because of her experience working with vocational students with special needs at BOCES.

“This is national, not just statewide,” she said. “There are about 20 of us.”

Ultimately what drew Ms. Ireland to the classroom was the students.

Asked if she misses her work at the design, firm, her response is, no.

“I get to do (the work) here with the kids. I’d rather be here working with the kids,” she said.

Most of her secondary students graduate and go on to college. She has had students attend the Landing School of Boatbuilding and Design, the Savannah School of Design and the New York Institute of Technology.

“Some of them end up in art school and find their niche, like photography or even video game design. Some go on to CAD drawing,” she said.

“I think because I individualize based on the student’s particular interest in design, it enables me to get them more prepared for their future,” she said.