Inside Scoop from the State of the Union Address

When Lisa Barnett began working as a teacher 27 years ago she had no idea she would one day attend the Kaine & IState of the Union Address representing Career Technical Education (CTE) as a personal guest of Senator Tim Kaine, co-chair of the Senate CTE Caucus. After spending more than 20 years in the classroom as a business teacher, Barnett took on the role of Instructional Coordinator at Botetourt County Public Schools in Fincastle, Virginia where right away she discovered CTE was viewed as ‘vocational education,’ and appropriate only for students not planning to further their education rather than critical education for all students.

From there her passion grew and she became a fierce advocate for CTE. You can hear the pride in Barnett’s voice as she describes her district’s impressive Standards of Learning (SOL) scores, high percentage of students earning multiple industry-recognized credentials and near 100 percent graduation rate of CTE students. She attributes her selection as Senator Kaine’s guest at the State of the Union to the good work of the entire division.

Though the event was a bit overwhelming for Barnett, attending the State of the Union Address allowed her to see how her role and the work of educators across the country is integral to the bigger picture, and was thrilled to see that CTE is a part of that conversation.

Though President Obama did not specifically mention CTE, Barnett believes the invite alone speaks volumes to the increasing value of CTE to policymakers and the general public. “People are really seeing CTE as an avenue that can help us all get to where we want to be,” said Barnett. “We’re finally seeing that recognition on the state and national level.”

Barnett is also encouraged by the growing connections between academic and Career Technical Education in her district and beyond. CTE’s ability to show students how their future is dependent on both academic and technical skills, and this will only increase in the future. Education is not just about SOLs and testing, it’s about showing students the opportunities for their careers. “These are not two different pathways,” said Barnett. “We should be walking together.”

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

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