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Where can you find three football fields of companies, over 100 presenters and more than 4,000 eager teachers, administrators and thought leaders in the world of Career Technical Education (CTE)? One answer is the annual ACTE conference. Nashville was host this year to the nation’s largest annual gathering of people interested in helping students prepare for life after high school or college.

My experience during the three days I attended was energizing. It provided a chance to renew relationships with great partners and build new relationships. Spending some time with Tim Lawrence, president of SkillsUSA, was a definite treat. SkillsUSA is comprised of hundreds of thousands of students across the country and provides leadership opportunities, community service projects, channels for students to practice what they are learning, and a full professional skills curriculum, among other things. Each K12-powered Destinations school has a SkillsUSA chapter. Tim talked about how excited he was that K12’s partner schools can make a difference throughout a state, rather than a smaller geographic area to which most schools are confined.

A panel discussion led by Chuck Wolfe, K12’s vice president of school development, demonstrated how CTE has grown at K12. Panel members included Nich Sutherland, head of school at Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin (DCAWI), as well as partners of the school, including representatives from Fox Valley Technical College and Local 139, the heavy machine operators union. Our Wisconsin partner school serves as a model for all schools, as it has quickly built key partnerships. In this case, these partnerships are statewide because of the footprint the school serves.

One of the most enjoyable moments of the conference was running into, Grace Belize Anderson, a senior at Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA). Grace is the national president of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), an organization that focuses on students interested in education, hospitality, tourism or culinary arts. Grace, like most students in these types of organizations, was composed and well-spoken – a real treat to visit with!

These conferences of concerned educators, community leaders, students and companies occur every few months and sometimes go unnoticed – 4,000 people all headed to the same place, cooperating, is such a positive thing, but most people do not know it’s happening. Now at least YOU know, and can spread the word about the great work that many of these people are doing.

About The Author

Patrick (Pat) Keeney, Director of College and Career Programs for our Managed Public Schools, is a career educator who has spent time in the classroom, consulting, launching a company, and with K12. Prior to his time in Product Management, Pat served for almost 7 years as part of the K12 Product Development group where he was the lead instructional designer on many high school math and science courses, and helped in designing games like X-germz. Prior to his time with K12, Pat was a consultant at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center where he worked with GOES satellites and deep-space astrophysics. In the late 1990s he founded an online education company. He also spent 17 years teaching in classrooms in Maryland and Pennsylvania, teaching high school mathematics and science, primarily physics. Pat’s interests range from basketball, a sport that he played and coached, to chess. Perhaps most importantly, Pat has also been a learning coach many years, and has seen the K12 experience from that perspective.

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