Career Guidance Award Winner

As the National ACTE Career Guidance Award winner, the past 2 years have left me touched, humbled and reinvigorated for all I do.

The journey to this award was a 21-year path through two differing school settings, first a comprehensive high school, and now a Career Technical Education District in Glendale Arizona. It is because of these amazing districts, innovative and supportive colleagues, and the related learning experiences that I came to be considered for our ACTEAZ State Career Guidance award in the spring of 2017.


The official award journey kicked off with a nomination for the state award by two fabulous colleagues who brought me to tears with their stories of my impact on the students, the district and our educational partners in the state.  What an amazing feeling to be at a state level conference surrounded by your family and peers from across the state to learn of the impact all of the CTE colleagues have had on students in your community.  From the state award, I became eligible to move forward in pursuit of the Region V award.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the conference in person, but I am told that my colleague and friend rocked an incredible mustache and greatly represented our district and me as I was announced as the winner in the Career Guidance category.  The outpouring of support and congratulations from friends, family and colleagues following the announcement of the award was touching and could make one’s head spin.  To recognize the great work of the amazing counselors in Region V and to then be nominated to move forward to the national competition was such an honor.  As my role as a counselor is a bit unorthodox- I am a counselor at a CTED campus, serve in a role to support all intervention and exceptional student services, engage in recruitment, and provide professional development- I was not sure how my portfolio and accomplishments would match with the award committee’s perspective on counseling in a CTE world.


Then came the big day…the awards banquet.  I had the great opportunity to spend time with my fellow nominees during the rehearsal for the banquet and was impressed over and over again by the kindness of each candidate as well as by the amazing and pioneering work they were engaged in within their state.  One could not find a better collection of counselors whose every interaction demonstrated why they were on a national stage together.  The actual awarding of the Career Guidance Award is all a blur, and who knows what my comments were on stage as I was more than a bit overwhelmed by the award and all that it came to represent.  The rest of the night and the duration of the conference was exciting and yes, overwhelming still, as colleagues, friends, and family both near and far congratulated me for the award.


I have been asked many times, about what I believe made the difference in moving my nomination forward from a state, to region, and ultimately a national level.  I have a few theories. Being in a Career Technical Education District that encourages and promotes personal and professional growth helped my vision of how to support intervention and exceptional students come to fruition.  In our district, we do not ask “why” to such proposals rather the question posed is “why not”.  This provides the support and resources to continually improve.  The next theory is a no brainer- always surround yourself with amazing people.  Being a member of a robust professional association, ACTEAZ, has further encouraged me to grow, advocate, and take on new roles in and outside of my district.  Another theory is that one must become comfortable with being uncomfortable.  If you are not willing to work outside of your comfort zone and take on new challenges, you remain stagnant.  My great friends, colleagues, and association members have continually provided the support needed to get out of my comfort zone to present on a variety of topics, try new strategies, and create new partnerships.


People have frequently inquired as to what my favorite part of winning the National Career Guidance Award has been.  I do not know that I can give one answer.  One of my most touching moments was when two of my former students reached out on a social media post from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction about the award to recognize me as their former counselor and club sponsor while congratulating me.  I learned that one of these wonderful former students is now a teacher of exceptional students.  This brings my work full-circle.  One of my other favorite parts is the voice such an award gives to the great work in Arizona for CTE and counseling.  The award I won is not just about me, but about the great work we all do on behalf of students daily and I consider myself fortunate to be part of the success of our students.


I highly encourage educators, counselors, and administrators to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, share the great work they are doing and move forward with nominating others for the awards offered by ACTE.  This process has helped me to assess my scope of work and my successes, while also reinvigorating me to set and chase my next level goals.


Shelly Thome

2019 ACTE Career Guidance Award Winner


Glendale, Arizona