One of the main reasons I became an ACTE member is for the advocacy work they do for my profession. I find it reassuring knowing that my dues represent me on Capitol Hill. Although I am thankful for this representation for myself, I had always been hesitant to advocate myself. I suppose I was much like the child in the teacher’s class who does everything they are supposed to do, and even more, but are afraid to talk to the teacher. I viewed my legislators the same way. The system seemed so complex: the difference between a congressman and a senator, all the different districts in my state, and they work in Washington. It was all too overwhelming, and left me only wishing I had paid more attention in my 8th grade Civics class.
In 2014, my local DECA officer became DECA state president and as we were gearing up for a trip to Washington, DC we were told she would go to visit our legislators and I would accompany her. I was not shocked by how nervous this made me. How would we find all of their offices, what would I say, what would they ask? And I was the adult. I laugh about that now, but I was sure thankful to hide behind my CTSO officer that day and let her do all the talking.
Then this year, I became an ACTE Fellow. Part of my fellowship was attending the National Policy Seminar in Washington, DC with one entire day devoted to hill visits. I was thankful for my past experience with my DECA officer so I knew what to expect. This time around I knew I had to do my homework, no student to hide behind. With my ACTE leave-behinds in hand, I felt confident with the visits. Plus I was with other CTE leaders in my state.
I found that, while I am no expert on every policy affecting CTE, I am an expert in my classroom. And honestly, I found that my senator, Boozman, really just wanted to know about me and my students. He deals with policymaking all day, and he was happy just sitting around a circle sharing what CTE means to my students, his Arkansas students.
While I know I am not the only CTE educator who feels this way, I encourage all of us to be willing to share our stories. I do not need to impress my legislators by knowing about their jobs, I just need to be willing to share with them about my job.
2017 ACTE Region IV Fellow
PCSSD – Maumelle High School