Boulder Valley School District

How Boulder TEC adjusted their hands-on programs during the pandemic

student working on car repair
Jodie Carroll

En Español

Some people think it’s a stand alone high school, while others think it’s part of Arapahoe Ridge High School, which happens to share the same building. But it’s neither. 

Boulder TEC (Technical Education Center) is a hands-on program available to all BVSD juniors and seniors. 

Students still attend their home school, but go to Boulder TEC a few hours every day to earn college credits and certifications in a specific industry, including:

  • Automotive Collision Repair

  • Automotive Service Technology

  • Biomedical Science

  • Construction Trades

  • Cosmetology (hair, nails and skin)

  • Early Childhood Education 

  • Emergency Medical Responder

  • Forensics Investigation and Criminology

  • Sports Medicine

  • Welding

Students earn college credits and/or industry certificates in their program of study for free or for a nominal fee. This ensures that when they graduate from high school, students are ready to either start college with credits already earned, or get a job in their field with hands-on experience and certifications on their resume. 

“One of the biggest benefits of Boulder TEC is that it gives students the opportunity to get in depth in the programs that we offer before going out into the workplace or going on to college,” said Boulder TEC Principal Arlie Huffman. “Students, in the two and a half hours each day that they’re here, can do just an amazing amount of project work. For example, in cosmetology work they’re working with clients, or in the auto collision repair program they’re working on a car that a client brought in.”

With limited space available, students must apply to get into the programs at Boulder TEC. A Virtual Open House will take place from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 25, by visiting Applications for the 2021/2022 school year will also start being accepted during the week of January 25. 

READ More: Get the Inside Scoop on Boulder TEC

So how did a hands-on facility like Boulder TEC work through the pandemic?

Providing hands-on instruction was very difficult when the pandemic hit. They too had to endure online learning. But they were able to adapt and make it work.

“Teachers have worked twice as hard at least this year as in prior years to make sure they can continually connect with the kids,” said Huffman. “They’ve done a lot of equipment check out so the students can come by and pick up entire kits of materials and tools to take home and work that way. The teachers have just been astoundingly good.” 

From Criminal Justice, Auto Collision Repair and Hair Styling, Boulder TEC teachers got extremely creative when finding ways for their students to continue with hands-on learning. 

“The thing I had to get the most creative about was the crimecrime scene set up in tent scenes,” Stogner said. “I ended up hauling all my dead bodies and a bunch of my crime scene equipment home and I built crime scenes in my backyard. It took a lot to do it because I live in a 55 and older community and a lot of these people are home during the day. I thought I can’t just drag these dead bodies out to my backyard, they are going to think I killed my husband during the pandemic or something. So I got out my camping equipment and I made the murder in a tent. So all the gory stuff was inside the tent. I literally posted on Nextdoor what I was doing so no one would call the cops.”

crime scene- footprint in sandStogner provided students information about the crime and took close-up pictures of the crime scene. Students had to study these photos, and with the information provided, solve the crime. 

“Our programs are so hands-on. It’s really difficult especially when you’re getting into the crime scene investigation,” added Stogner. “The kids are incredibly resilient. They want to learn. The nice thing we have as TEC teachers is it’s an elective to come over here. You get kids that are so excited about wanting to learn the subject matter that you’re teaching. You get this learning environment that’s so fun because they are so into it. Even though we had to be online, they are still jazzed about the program. My kids have come on Google Classroom every day. Every kid passed their college classes being online.”

Uttich used his budget to get every kid a fender and the proper tools to work from home, including hammers, dollies, sand paper, and body filler.  

“I put dents in their fenders and I sent them home with them and we did virtual work at home,” said Uttich. “They were online hammering and dollying, working on their fenders trying to straighten out the metal. I did a drive-thru inspection of their fenders where I would be outside and they would pull up to me one at a time, socially distanced, hand me their fender, and I would examine it and then explain to them what they needed to do. It’s been really good. But the challenge is, some of the products have a little bit of a smell to them so I tell them don’t do this inside the house.”  

Uttich says it’s definitely been a challenge to teach hands-on courses online, but he feels that overall it’s gone well.

“We started out online and completed four national certifications before we came back in the middle of the fall,” added Uttich. “It went really well, they were very engaged. All of my kids, and I mean all of them, passed those first four certifications. The first go around was tearing apart a car and learning how to put it back together. We were moving along and then November came. That took the wind out of the sail. We kept going and finished strong. We completed 10 certifications by the end of December, that’s a lot. That’s an extreme amount of certifications.”

For Hair Styling Instructor Richard Krammes, there was a big learning curve in utilizing the technology for online learning. But he said he impressed himself and if he could do it, anybody could. Another difficult part about online learning he said was making sure the students had what they needed to work from home. He assembled kits for every single student with items they would need for the entire semester with periodic picks up as they started new units. Each hair styling student received flatirons, curling irons, blow dryers, shears, razors, brushes, capes, clippers, mannequins and now chemicals to be able to work from home successfully.  

“We just started chemicals online for the first time ever,” said Krammes. “I did send a warning letter to all the parents that their students are doing chemicals at home, so make sure they have a safe area, not doing it on the carpet or on the furniture. So hopefully that all goes well. But so far, it’s working.”

The one thing that he couldn’t replicate online was the personal care and human interaction. Normally the program has a salon where clients come in for service. But he has encouraged his students to use family and friends so they can still earn their hours and meet the requirements. In Colorado, students are required to achieve 1,200 hours of hands-on, practical experience. 

“So over the two years, they earn that [1,200 hours] and then generally take the test in June or July and then they can go straight to work right out of High School,” added Krammes. “It’s amazing that we are able to provide this. Post secondary tuition is astronomical. It’s all about the education experience here and giving them everything I’ve got.”  

BVSD is proud of the amazing programs and teachers at Boulder TEC. And although Boulder TEC has been “BVSD’s Best Kept Secret,” staff are hopeful that the secret is now out, and that more students will show an interest and consider applying for one of the programs.

Learn more about Boulder TEC at


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