100 Years of Advancing CTE: Dr. Ann Benson’s Impact on CTE

Ann Benson has a long and impressive Career Technical Education (CTE) journey, which began in a home economics class in Oklahoma during her freshman year of high school. Her passion continued and she was inspired to go on to pursue both a bachelor’s teaching certificate and a master’s degree in home economics. She taught home economics, as it was called then, for four years before joining the Oklahoma Department of Vocational and Technical Education as a Curriculum Specialist in 1972, working on curriculum development for three years. From there, Benson became the first director of a multistate consortium, the Mid-America Vocational Curriculum Consortium, leading a working group of a dozen or so states to develop mutually needed instructional materials. Benson continued to hold increasingly important leadership positions in the CTE field, and in 1999, she was named State CTE Director in Oklahoma, a position she held for four years. 

In Benson’s early days, CTE was very traditional, with instruction focused on just a few skill areas, such as home economics and agriculture. Over time, Benson witnessed CTE’s evolution in her state to include a greater emphasis across all clusters on career preparation and better integration with academics. Benson credits the creation of Oklahoma’s first-class area technical centers – and a commitment to the maintenance and evolution of that status – as a major reason CTE enjoys a widely held, positive image in her state.

When reminiscing on her decades-long history with Advance CTE (which of course was called the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium at the time), Benson reflected fondly on the sense of congeniality at the first meeting she attended when she was starting the multistate consortium in the 1970s. Benson remembers that during her tenure, she was often the only woman in the room among CTE leaders from each state, leading the way for future female State Directors. Benson served as a respected leader in the State Director community, serving as the president of the Board of Directors, and also led a project to engage state CTE leaders in the development and launch of Career Clusters in the early 2000s, a framework that we still use to this day. Benson recognized that across her CTE career, Advance CTE has consistently been a leader, and served as a voice and advocate for CTE on Capitol Hill.

Benson looks forward to a future of CTE with well-trained educators, and a system of high-quality programs that connect learners to high-wage and in-demand careers.

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