Transforming Technical Education

Scott Burke with his mom at a Broncos game at Mile High Stadium stands
Burke with his mom at a Denver Broncos game

Scott Burke (B.S., ’01; M.S., ’07) has had an extraordinary career. He teaches vocational education in public high school and created and runs an award-winning consulting firm that’s transforming technical education.

He comes from a CSU family. A photograph hangs in Lory Student Center of his mother in her switchboard operator role for the University while she was a student here in the late 1950’s. His grandmother worked in the Rockwell Hall kitchen as a cook when it was still a residence hall. When it became time for him to attend college, he explains, “CSU just felt like home.”

A couple smiles next to a rock formation on a Colorado hiking trail
Scott and his wife, Christina, stop along a Colorado hiking trail.

Finding a Career Path by Helping Others

While a student, Scott was heavily involved in the Division of Student Affairs, having worked for various offices around campus. He was a member of the Preview orientation program for six years, helping ease the transition for many incoming students and families and eventually worked his way up to being the student coordinator for his last two years as an undergraduate. He also was a peer mentor for the Resources for Disabled Students program and the Key Academic Community. After trying out several different majors, he settled on Technology Education and Training and earned a teaching degree.

After graduation, Scott was hired as the Industrial Arts auto shop teacher at Loveland High School. Having no background in auto shop, he immediately signed up for courses at Aims Community College to learn automotive and attended night classes four nights a week during his entire first year of teaching. He built the automotive program up considerably. However, his heart was in construction, having earned his undergraduate degree in the construction management program.  Eventually, Scott partnered with fellow teacher Tom Moore (math) and revolutionized the construction program by starting a program called Geometry in Construction.

Hands-On Math Instruction

Geometry in Construction teaches students all of their math standards and competencies through the natural progression of building a home for a local family in need.  The program accomplishes this by combining the best parts of Career and Technical Education (CTE) with math by answering the question, “when will we use this?”  After successfully implementing that program, Scott and his expanding teaching team went on to connect algebra to the real world by starting a program called AMPED on Algebra. After starting these programs, Scott was introduced to the Secretary of Education for Texas, who told him, “You have what the rest of the country needs—now figure out how to get it to the rest of the country.”

Scaling Up the Concept

That led to the creation of a consulting company, Contextual Learning Concepts, which has been a huge success. Geometry in Construction is now in over 700 schools, and AMPED on Algebra is in over 200 schools. Scott has received the Harbor Freight Tools for School Award and the Colorado Career and Technical Education Teacher of the Year Award. In 2018, he and these two courses were featured on NBC Nightly News; they also have received a great deal of regional media attention.

Rather than focus on his numerous awards and accomplishments, however, Scott prefers instead to focus on the professional individuals at CSU who helped and inspired him along the way, including Linda Ahuna-Hamill, JoAnn Cornell, Glenda DeGuzman, Rose Kreston, Donna Cooner, Paul Shang, Keith Miser, Kerry Nakasone Wenzler, Tae Nosaka, Steve Jaouen, Jayna Simpson, Paul Thayer, Anna Fontana, and Karen Wedge.

When he and his wife, Christina Paguyo (B.A.,’01; MED,’06), whom he met while working at APASS, decided to move to Denver, Burke began teaching in Jefferson County. He now is coordinator of contextual learning, a blended position; 50% of his job includes leading the Geometry in Construction and AMPED on Algebra programs at Green Mountain High School and the other 50% as a district-level administrator is to help other district schools start and sustain both programs. To date, both programs are being taught in 15 of the 22 district high schools, positively impacting approximately 3,000 students per year. Among his goals is to reinvigorate technical training in Jefferson County schools and the country.

Although both he and Christina “work a ton,” Scott says they enjoy hanging out with family, friends, and their dog Luna Bear. Scott also loves cooking, and Christina says that she loves eating the food he cooks!