Last weekend I was cleaning out my desk and found an article from the “80’s”entitled “Professional Participation Imperative” by Dr. Gene Bottoms, then executive director of the American Vocational Association. I saved it for two reasons. First, it reflected my philosophy and commitment to my profession and its professional organizations, and second, because of this quote he included by Theodore Roosevelt about commitment to organizations.
“Every man owes a part of his time and money to the profession or business in which he is engaged. No man has the moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.”
Throughout my 45-year career I have been an active member of vocational education, now career and technical education, and other professional organizations related to education serving in many leadership roles including state president of two of these organizations. In my current role as the Assistant Director for the Career and Technical Education Technical Assistance Center of NY, I work with the CTE professional organizations in the state helping them maintain, develop and grow their organizations and the leadership skills of their members. This is an effort to assure these organizations are there to “strive to improve conditions within” the CTE sphere at a time when there is a shortage of CTE teachers to join organizations, membership is decreasing, and they struggle to find leaders.
You may ask, “Where did my commitment and allegiance come from?” The answer – those leaders and mentors who came before me, their guidance, and the benefits and recognition I received because of being active in the CTE professional organizations. Yes, there were personal, financial, and time commitments to my involvement. However, I learned a great deal about my profession and CTE, got a more global view of its role in education, received endless hours of professional development, improved my leadership skills, and made many friends in NY and across the country.
During my career, I have hoped for CTE to be on equal ground as academic education, and right now, we are the closest to that as I have seen it in all those years. The new Perkins V – Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act holds much promise, but CTE's strength is in the numbers. In the words of Dr. Bottoms, "It is going to take dedicated professionals to help others understand what (CTE) vocational education is and where it fits into the educational mainstream. We must use our professional association as a way to communicate with those who make policy; we cannot assume that they know everything there is to know about our(CTE) programs and our needs."
As you begin the new school year, I encourage you to renew your memberships or to join your CTE content area, state – NYSACTE, and national - ACTE professional organizations. I close with the still valid challenge Gene Bottoms wrote decades ago. "These organizations were formed to improve the conditions within our sphere—(Career and Technical Education) vocational education—because it is only by working together that we can effect change" and provide quality CTE programs.