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ACTE Excellence Awards

2012-2013 Award Winners


The following awards were presented during the ACTE Awards Banquet at CareerTech VISION 2012.

Member Awards
2013 Teacher of the Year—Robin McLean
2013 Career Guidance Award—Sharon Ann Hetherington
2013 Outstanding Career and Technical Educator—Diana Plummer
2013 Outstanding New Career and Technical Educator—Lavyne Rada
2013 Outstanding Teacher in Community Service—Jeff Eppen

Nominated Awards
Lifetime Achievement Award—Rebecca Cox
Award of Merit—Kentucky Jump$tart
Image Award—West-MEC Interactive Media Department
Business Leader of the Year—Brandon Pelissero, CEO of Ecolink
Business Advocate of the Year—Jim Ryan, Chairman, President and CEO of Grainger


ACTE Teacher of the Year, Sponsored by Cisco

Robin McLean
Northern Burlington Country Regional School District
Columbus, New Jersey

Robin McLean is an agriscience teacher/FFA adviser at Northern Burlington County Regional School District in Columbus, New Jersey.

She collaborates with colleagues to help students apply the skills they are learning in language arts and math. She reinforces the concepts they are learning in their science classes and infuses literacy in her curriculum. She was selected to be one of three teacher mentors in national Teach Agriculture Day in Washington, DC. Beyond the school day, McLean serves as the middle school FFA adviser, providing leadership, community service, career exploration, preparation for competitions and other enrichment programs for students.

McLean is also an active part of the school community, serving as an active member and chair of various committees. She also seeks community partnerships and used her entrepreneurial efforts to benefit the agriscience program, including securing a small grant to make improvements in the school's ecology center. Rosetta Treece, her assistant principal, remarked that McLean "is one of three National Board Certified Teachers in our district and one of the most dedicated teachers I have known."

Robin was honored at the Awards Banquet held at CareerTech VISION 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. She declared upon accepting her award, "I am honored to be recognized as the Teacher of the Year. It’s also an honor to join the ranks of the outstanding agricultural educators on the stage. I want to thank ACTE for providing the tools to me to advocate for CTE and for the opportunities through social media to promote to career and technical education to a broad audience." Watch Robin McLean's interview with ACTE at CareerTech VISION 2012 below.



2013 Career Guidance Award, Sponsored by Kuder Inc.

Sharon Ann Hetherington
Coordinator of Couseling, WACO ISD
Waco, Texas

Sharon Hetherington, a coordinator of counseling at Waco ISD College and Career Readiness Department in Texas, knew she wanted to teach home economics when she got her first cookbook. But it was a profound experience with a student that led Hetherington to her true passion of counseling. After two years of teaching, Hetherington became a high school counselor, where she worked with the CTE coordinator and expanded afternoon college classes for students to attend Texas State Technical College, all the while battling the misconceptions about CTE.

Hetherington was instrumental in developing and implementing numerous innovative student support programs. She sees CTE as the guiding force behind all she does, as she works to create an environment where students and fellow counselors are engaged, passionate, and able to work collaboratively with others. In support of this goal, Hetherington is the writer and creative producer for "Targeting Tomorrow," a monthly TV show focused on CTE classes featuring future career paths and personal stories. Hetherington is a leader in her profession and through her CTE activities she has been able to change lives.

The new Career Guidance Award is sponsored by Kuder Inc., who stepped forward as a long-standing partner to support this award and the national winner, Hetherington. "It’s my honor to accept this award on behalf of counselors everywhere. Having been a CTE teacher and then a career counselor, I understand it from both sides. I so appreciate all the counselors that have gone before me and come after me. If you look at this way, counselors are the search engines that bring students to your programs. I would be remiss not to thank ACTE for all the wonderful energy and thoughts given to me over the years through my membership,” said Sharon Hetherington in brief remarks given while accepting her award. Watch Sharon Hetherington's interview with ACTE below, and watch her interview with Phil Harrington, president and CEO of Kuder, Inc., at CareerTech VISION 2012.



2013 Outstanding Career and Technical Educator

Diana Plummer
Career Counselor, Central Technology Center
Sapulpa, OK

As a career counselor at Central Tech in Oklahoma, Diana Plummer believes that love of variety has caused her to think outside the box when it comes to innovative ideas that she has implemented throughout her 30 years in education. Plummer's experience includes 17 years of classroom teaching and 13 in secondary and postsecondary counseling. Having a love for development initiatives and impacting others, Plummer has a vision for excellence.

One of her significant accomplishments is implementing a "Counselor's Connection" monthly meeting on her personal time that includes 25 different schools. This allows counselors to share valuable information and materials with other schools. Another initiative in her desire to improve the retention rate of students was the creation of the Post-Secondary Preview Day, an emphasis on retention among adult to come back to school and help students who have expressed dropping out. Each year the data reveals that the retention rate for adults who participate is 100 percent.

Despite Plummer's broad range of professional responsibilities and special achievements, she finds time to serve as president for the OKACTE Guidance Division. Experienced in teaching and counseling, Plummer holds true purpose in creating pioneering programs and connecting CTE and the community.

Upon accepting her award at the Awards Banquet during CareerTech VISION 2012, Plummer remarked: "Thank you so much, it is also such a great honor to receive this as an educator. I’ve been an educator for over 30 years, and I’m a product of career tech, a member of BPA, FBLA, fell in love with the system back then and saw the relevance. I love to empower students and I feel empowered because of ACTE and career and technical education." Watch ACTE's interview with Diana Plummer at CareerTech VISION 2012 below.



2013 Outstanding New Career and Technical Teacher

Lavyne Rada
Argicultural Teacher, Hutchinson School District
Hutchinson, Minnesota

An agriculture teacher for the Hutchinson School District in Minnesota since 2008, Lavyne Rada has revamped the agricultural science program, nearly tripling enrollment in the process. Her students learn about cloning plants, designing new food products, and more. Rada has also increased the small FFA chapter from 22 to more than 200 highly active members.

The scientific principles taught in her courses have been recognized by the district. The natural chemistry and food innovations course is now an option for a chemistry credit. In addition, 100 percent of Hutchinson agricultural science students participate in a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) outside the classroom. Rada formed an advisory committee to provide input on courses, guide students in SAE projects, and coach teams. In addition, Rada has secured numerous grants for a greenhouse and other projects.

Under her direction, students have completed landscape beautification projects and, through the FFA chapter, have hosted a farm products and safety day, facilitated a county fair barnyard, and more. Through it all, Rada finds time to connect on an individual level. According to one of her students, "I have never met another teacher that takes the care and time with her students."

"Thank you ACTE for this honor. Being a single-person department, I’ve been fortunate that my school has taken great care of me. So thank you everyone for taking care of new teachers, thank you for continuing to mentor new teachers and thanks to the sponsors who make these awards possible," Rada said in response to being selected as the national Outstanding New Career and Technical Education Teacher for 2013. Watch ACTE's interview with Lavyne Rada at CareerTech VISION 2012 below.



2013 Outstanding Teacher in Community Service

Jeff Eppen
Agricultural Teacher, Sibley East School District
Arlington, Minnesota

An agriculture teacher and FFA advisor in Sibley East School District, Minnesota, Jeff Eppen educates students and helps them explore careers through real-world, community based activities. One of the largest projects he has developed is a school garden through the Farm to School initiative. Eppen took the helm of writing multiple grants to provide financial support for this project. The two-plus acre garden gives students real-world experience with food production and provides the school with freshly grown produce. In addition, half the produce is sold to community shareholders through a student-run community-supported agricultural business. This project has been recognized on both state and national levels.

In addition to the garden, Eppen incorporates agricultural awareness and literacy presentations to younger students into his classes, guides students to success in FFA and coordinates the school's student work opportunities. He has for several years led a corn variety trial that brings together students, farmers, seed dealers, cooperatives, crop consultants and others. According to the Sibley East superintendent of schools, "To have watched [the vegetable garden] grow in such a short amount of time into the truly dynamic and environment-changing  project it has become is truly unique…the credit goes directly and specifically to Jeff."

"I’m very honored to receive this award," Eppen said upon accepting the award at CareerTech VISION 2012's Awards Banquet. Watch ACTE's interview with Jeff Eppen at CareerTech VISION 2012 below.



Lifetime Achievement Award

Rebecca Cox
Alpine School District
Highland, Utah

Becky Cox has been an advocate and strong voice for career and technical education for the majority of her professional life. Her current work at Alpine School District and statewide is evidence of her passion for CTE, and her willingness to share her ability nationwide exemplifies her dedication.

Her colleagues describe her as extremely dedicated to the students she serves and a master at effectively implementing successful curriculum. Throughout her career, she has had a very long list of accomplishments that have been noticed by colleagues, the Utah State Office of Education and the ACTE Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) Division. This experience allowed her to remain very involved as she has served as an adviser to the current FACS vice president. During her time on the ACTE Board of Directors, she wrote the Division handbook, revamped the Division resources and strengthened the awards program.

Always known for her academic compassion, Cox has been very involved in curriculum development in Utah and has worked on development of the interior design curriculum as well as the ProStart curriculum. Her work is currently available on the Utah State Office of Education FACS Listserve website and lesson plans are currently being reviewed on the Utah Education Network (UEN) website, one of the nation's premier education networks.

Cox loves CTE and FACS. She has stated that, "From our classes students can learn to be better parents, have better relationships, succeed financially, prepare for careers and have a better quality of life."


Award of Merit

Kentucky Jump$tart
Frankfort, Kentucky

Kentucky Jump$tart is a coalition that provides both FACS and business teachers across Kentucky with innovative and reliable financial literacy resources. The Jump$tart Coalition was founded late in 1995, based on an idea credited to William E. Odom, who was, at the time, chairman and CEO of the Ford Motor Credit Corporation. To date, Kentucky Jump$tart has been able to sponsor seven financial literacy programs and their coalition involves work with more than 49 different organizations and businesses across the state to improve financial literacy in Kentucky. Kentucky Jump$tart offers scholarships to teachers that can be used for classroom materials or training relating to financial literacy.

Kentucky Jump$tart is actively involved in CTE efforts. Kentucky Jump$tart sponsors the Life Fundamental Financial Literacy Summit, an annual teachers' conference that focuses on financial literacy education. It provides training at the KACTE annual conference by leading workshops for teachers on curriculum and classroom implementation. In addition, Kentucky Jump$tart supports and coordinates several collaborative campaigns and endeavors, such as Kentucky Saves Week and Financial Literacy Month. The Kentucky Jump$tart continues to work with its partners to produce resources and training on the importance and value of financial literacy, strengthened by its desire to advance the students of Kentucky.

West-Mec Plaque

ACTE Image Award

WEST-MEC Interactive Media Department
Western Maricopa Education Center
Glendale, Arizona

The noteworthy Interactive Media Department at the Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC) in Glendale, Arizona, has received significant recognition for its awe-inspiring work in communicating factual and relevant information to the community about CTE. The West-MEC Interactive Department’s unique communication methods and campaigns have a direct impact on their community and help CTE programs flourish, making them a leader in their field. The Interactive Media Department plays an integral role in ensuring that students, parents, the district and community are all aware of their innovative CTE programs. In support of this goal, the Interactive Media Department develops creative and engaging campaigns to encourage young people to register for CTE programs throughout its 40 West-MEC locations. One of the most high-profile campaigns is a CTE video created to capture an environment of creativity and a culture where career and technical education is admired and relied upon. Succeeding in impact, the campaign received 4,014 views and drove traffic with 1,841 clicks to West-MEC’s website in the first month. The campaign promotes a positive light to career and technical education that evokes emotion, and tells a story. The Interactive Media Department’s prestige in marketing its programs fundamental messages is evidence of innovation and dedication to CTE. In recognition of the campaign’s efforts, the Interactive Media Department was awarded the Arizona School Public Relations Association Award of Excellence for overall excellence in public relations. Watch ACTE's interview with West-MEC representative Adriana Parsons at CareerTech VISION 2012 below.



Business Leader of the Year

Brandon Pelissero
Chief Executive Officer

To help Ecolink remain successful, Pelissero understands the need for an effective sales and marketing staff. It is for that reason he focuses a considerable amount of time supporting business and marketing education here in Georgia.

Some of his local activities include coaching students as they prepare for their CTSO competitions, working with the business community to raise their awareness of the important role business and marketing education programs play in preparing future employees, and securing business speakers for teacher and industry events.

Pelissero, however, feels there needs to be a national focus on business and marketing education. To that end, he was the co-founder of a coalition of professional associations that support a variety of business- and marketing-related programs, he was active in a state-level industry certification program that provided the impetus for a national accreditation program, and he is a charter member of the MBA Executive Advisory Network, where he provides continuing input for the validation of national standards. Watch Brandon Pelissero's interview with former ACTE president Bryan Albrecht below.



Business Advocate of the Year Award

Jim Ryan
Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Ryan’s advocacy efforts have revolved around the skills gap issue and this is evident in several ways.

The first can be found on the company’s website: “As a leading distributor of industrial supplies, Grainger is committed to helping stem the growing shortage of skilled workers while supporting the increasing technical demands of today’s industrial workplace. Grainger customers rely on trades people to keep their businesses afloat.” In fact, Grainger is one of the few companies that has a webpage dedicated to career and technical education.

But this advocacy is not just words on a website. Earlier this year, Ryan and Grainger hosted a business roundtable that brought businesses together in an informal setting to discuss the skills gap, the impact it is having, and how it can be addressed.

And if getting his colleagues to discuss and share about a critical issue weren’t enough, Ryan and Grainger are heavy investors in CTE through the Tools for Tomorrow scholarship program, which this year allocated approximately $400,000 to support 200 scholarships for students pursuing careers in industrial trades. Watch Jim Ryan's interview with former ACTE president Bryan Albrecht.


ACTE Congratulates Its Region Winners!

Career Guidance Award
Sponsored by Kuder Inc.

Outstanding Career and Technical
Educator Award  

Sarah Taylor, Region I

Erin Schilling, Region I

Sharon Ann Hetherington, Region IV

Anthony L. Dillon, Region II

Renae Brady, Region V

Deborah Belfry, Region III


Diana Plummer, Region IV


Mark Hamilton, Region V



Outstanding New Career and Technical
Teacher Award

Outstanding Teacher in
Community Service Award

Sharon Maurice, Region I

Deborah Ann Chapman, Region I

Rachel VanPelt, Region II

Bettina Polite Tate, Region II

Lavyne Rada, Region III

Jeff Eppen, Region III

Claire Nickel, Region IV

Glenna LoAnn Latona, Region IV

Carmelita Goossen, Region V

Denise J. Kuehne Abbott, Region V



Teacher of the Year Award


Robin C. McLean, Region I


Norene Olsen, Region II


Paul A. Larson, Region III


Athena Frank, Region IV


Diane Cluff, Region V


Visit the winner archives to see more of our past winners. For more information on the ACTE Excellence Awards and how to apply, please visit the ACTE Awards webpage.

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ACTE Excellence Awards

Achieve 100 Award

ACTE's exclusive Achieve 100 Award recognizes schools and institutions that have 100 percent ACTE membership participation from each and every member of their career and technical staff.

ACTE Policymaker of the Year Award Winners

Previous Award Winners:  2010: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. George Miller (D-CA) Special Lifetime Achievement Award - Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) 2009: Policymaker of the Year - Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)  2008: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) & Rep. Phil English (R-PA) Special Lifetime Achievement Award - Rep. John Peterson (R-PA) 2007: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) & Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) 2006: Policymaker of the Year - Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) & Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) Board of Directors Award - Former OVAE Deputy Assistant Secretary Hans Meeder 2005: Policymaker of the Year - Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) Board of Directors Awards - Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), Rep. Tom Osborne (R-NE) & Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) 2004: Policymaker of the Year - Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) Board of Directors Awards - Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) & Sen. Ernest Fritz Hollings (D-SC) 2003: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) Board of Directors Awards - Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) & Rep. Johnny Isakson (D-GA) 2002: Policymaker of the Year - Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) 2001: Policymaker of the Year - OVAE Assistant Secretary Trish McNeil 2000: Policymaker of the Year - Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) 1999: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. John Peterson (R-PA) Board of Directors Award - Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) & Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) 1998: Policymaker of the Year - Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) Board of Directors Award - Sen. Wendell Ford (D-KY) & School-to-Work Office Director J.D. Hoye 1997: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Board of Directors Award - Sen. Paul Simon (D-IL) 1996: Policymaker of the Year - Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS) Board of Directors Award - Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-RI) 1995: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI) 1994: Policymaker of the Year - President Bill Clinton 1993: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) 1992: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. William Ford (D-MI) 1991: Policymaker of the Year - OVAE Assistant Secretary Betsy Brand 1990: Policymaker of the Year - Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-RI) 1989: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. Augustus Hawkins (D-CA) 1988: Policymaker of the Year - Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-FL) 1987: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. Wes Watkins (D-OK) 1986: Policymaker of the Year - Sen. Lowell Weicher (R-CT) 1985: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. William Natcher (D-KY) 1984: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. Silvio Conte (R-MA) 1983: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. William Ford (D-MI) 1982: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. William Goodling (R-PA) 1981: Policymaker of the Year - Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-FL) 1980: Policymaker of the Year - Rep. Carl Perkins (D-KY)  


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