ECMCF Fellow Feature: Dr. Crystal Gardner

In September 2022, Advance CTE and ECMC Foundation announced the second cohort of The Postsecondary State Career Technical Education (CTE) Leaders Fellowship at Advance CTE—Sponsored by ECMC Foundation. The Advance CTE — ECMCF Fellows include representation across multiple demographic categories reflecting the Fellowship’s goal of intentionally building a postsecondary leadership pipeline for underserved populations in Career Technical Education (CTE)  that closes racial representation gaps and removes equity barriers to postsecondary leadership advancement. For this blog in the ECMCF Fellow Feature series, we interviewed  ECMCF Fellow Dr. Crystal Gardner (TX) who entered the Fellowship with experience spanning PK-12, higher education and adult education.

Dr. Crystal Gardner currently serves as the Instructional Supervisor for the Houston Community College (HCC) Alternative Teacher Certification Program (ATCP). In this role, she oversees instructional operations, program development, quality control, and compliance management. Joining the Fellowship was an exciting opportunity to fully immerse herself in the world of career and technical education (CTE) through equity-aligned learning and real-world practicum.

She was first exposed to the world of workforce development through her work in ATCP. This proximity allowed her to work in professional learning communities and connect with other workforce stakeholders. The Fellowship was recommended to her by a colleague who knew about her previous experience and passion for program outcomes.

“My goal is to pull others up through my work. Whether my role is in grant writing, administration or as an educator, my goal is always to prepare and provide high-quality educators, high-quality employees, and high-quality people.”

Dr. Gardner’s work in institution improvement has always been data-driven. She has experience using data to turn around PK-12 campuses and the successful re-accreditation of the Alternative Teacher Certification program at HCC upon its initial re-accreditation audit. As a Fellow, she’s eager for the opportunity to further develop her knowledge and skills around using CTE datasets and Perkins accountability to close gaps in the programs she oversees. One of her long-term goals is to expand alternative certification programs to include CTE educator preparation to increase the availability of high-quality CTE instructors in Houston.

“This Fellowship has given me the skills to analyze our institutional data through an equity lens and identify those areas of need. I’m able to narrow in on key areas like sustainability and retention in an impactful way.”

Dr. Gardner’s role has shifted in exciting ways as she’s been tapped to take on additional projects and speaking engagements. She has had the opportunity to present on accountability at numerous conferences, including the Texas Association of CTE (TACTE) and the Learning Resources Network (LERN) conferences. Dr. Gardner is also proud of the work that she’s led around expanding the eligibility of Veterans Benefit to cover clock hour programs for Veterans wishing to pursue Alternative Teacher Certification at HCC, in addition to completing the process of garnering the approval of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for the Alternative Teacher Certification CE Certificate, beginning Fall 2023.

“Participating in the Fellowship has increased the quality and capacity of my professional network exponentially. I feel renewed and invigorated finding myself surrounded by a group of people of such caliber and similar-minded passion for moving the needle to improve systems.”

If you have any questions, contact Dr. Crystal Gardner by email at [email protected] 

Amy Hodge, Policy Associate

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