Welcome to Heather Justice, Texas’ New State CTE Director!

Heather Justice may be familiar to many within the Advance CTE family from her work at the Tennessee Department of Education, where she led major initiatives to transform the state’s CTE teacher professional development model and revised the state-promoted industry-recognized credentials list.

Now Justice is ready for her next challenge as Division Director of College, Career, and Military Preparation with the Texas Education Agency in a state with more than 1,200 school districts.

“It’s exciting to take some of the work Texas has already done and utilizing that to build across the state and thinking about the impact you can have for over 5 million students,” Justice said.

Justice’s path into CTE was a bit of a side-step, as she first began in the hospitality industry managing kitchen and hotel operations after graduating from Florida State University with a degree in business. Part of that work included training kitchen and hotel staff, a role that Justice fell in love with and realized that she wanted to continue this work as a teacher. So, she pursued her master’s degree in education and taught high school marketing and accounting in Tennessee.

Justice then went on to work as a finance consultant for the then-mayor of Knoxville, Bill Haslam, who was running for Tennessee governor. Shortly after Haslam’s gubernatorial inauguration, Justice was hired by the Tennessee Department of Education as a special projects consultant for the college and career readiness division.

Over the next seven years, Justice would go on to become the Director of Talent and Improvement and then Executive Director of CTE, and play a key role as the state transformed its programs of study offerings. Specifically, as the Director of Talent and Improvement, Justice reimagined the way that professional development could be delivered in the state and shifted to a regional approach that empowered and leveraged teacher leaders to lead communities of practice. As part of this shift, she trained the state CTE staff to provide this regionalized professional development by shifting their work from compliance to support.

Another point of pride for Justice was the state’s work to overhaul its industry-recognized credential list, which had more than 200 credentials. Justice led the work to winnow that list to 53 credentials that were recognized and valued by industry based on a set of rigorous criteria. Additionally, the Department of Education signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) system that ensured students who complete a credential on this list are guaranteed to earn articulated postsecondary credit with TCAT.

Now in Texas, Justice is excited to build on some of the great work happening including the state’s early college high schools and STEM academies as the state continues its work to value college and career readiness and connect CTE to traditional college preparatory models. A major focus will be a regional approach, recognizing Texas’ geographic diversity and how industries such as energy have different needs on the Gulf Coast, compared to West Texas.

“It’s about letting those regional influences really shine,” Justice said.

Andrea Zimmermann, Senior Associate, Member Engagement and Leadership Development


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