Meet Patrick Biggerstaff, Champion for CTE

Patrick Biggerstaff won ACTE's Champion for CTE AwardMeet Patrick Biggerstaff, winner of ACTE’s Champion for CTE Award. He works as director of career and technical education (CTE) at Area 31 Career Center in Indiana. Biggerstaff’s interview appears as part of a spotlight series on our national award winners and finalists. This award recognizes education leaders, business and industry executives, celebrities and thought leaders who support and champion CTE programs as a vital part of developing a prepared, adaptable and competitive workforce

Tell me a little about your role in CTE. What do you do?

My responsibilities include overseeing secondary CTE programs across 11 school districts and within a shared area district career center. As a career and technical education administrator, I am privileged to support programs that range from school-based preschool to local adult education programs. I enjoy learning alongside an amazing group of practitioners who strengthen CTE. We collaborate with external partners to expand programming in high-value pathways. And, further, we have prioritized work that aims to reduce barriers associated with certification costs and student transportation to work-based learning (WBL) placements.

What was your educational experience like? What did you study?

Prior to entering the field of education, I worked in banking and sales management. I received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Dallas Baptist University (2000) and a Master of Business Administration from Texas Christian University (2002). Through volunteering as a tutor at a juvenile detention facility, I found a passion for teaching, differentiation and exploring alternative models of education. After transitioning into education, I received a Master of Arts in teaching from the University of Indianapolis (2007) with endorsements in business education and mild intervention, a CTE endorsement from Indiana State University (2007), a K–12 Building Administrator License from Indiana University (2010), a Director of CTE license from Ball State University (2013), an education specialist degree from Ball State University (2017), and a doctorate in educational leadership from Ball State University (2020).

For the past two years, I have also been fortunate to participate in the Center on the Economics and Management of Education and Training Systems (CEMETS) Education Reform Lab. My work as a member of the Indiana Case Team seeks to expand high-quality WBL across our state.

What led you to your work at Area 31 Career Center?

My predecessor, Ron Hoke, is a terrific mentor and a cherished friend. He and I began discussing my future goals when I taught business classes at our local high school. And, over the course of several years, he helped me to develop my skills and understandings of high-quality CTE. Ron encouraged me to become involved in the Indiana Association for Career and Technical Education. He said I could learn more and expand my network of passionate colleagues. More than 10 years later, I remain grateful for the friendships and opportunities that have developed through these relationships.

I was interested in working at Area 31 Career Center, because it is a special place where thousands of learners are challenged to earn college credits, industry certifications and work-based learning placements. The team of counselors, instructors, office staff and support service personnel is second to none. And I remain inspired by the work they do each day to benefit students.

Do you have any advice for educators who seek to become champions for CTE? What can they do to increase awareness of and participation in career and technical education in their communities?

So much of an individual’s personal growth is tied to emotion. I encourage educators to champion CTE by celebrating testimonials and building relationships with those who share a similar passion. CTE success stories resonate across our country. Highlight the unique stories in every community. By sharing these celebrations with pride, we can capture attention and recruit fellow champions for CTE.

Our education systems face many challenges in 2021 and beyond. Please discuss the steps that need to be taken to improve equitable access to high-quality CTE programs of study.

The first step in improving equitable access is to provide evidence of need using accurate and timely data. After having identified gaps, It is necessary to unite key stakeholders to brainstorm ideas and pilot solutions. Often, this will mean working with external partners such as legislators or employers to garner necessary permissions and resources. To realize other meaningful change, consider modifying internal factors such as the process of teaching and evaluating curricula. Continuous improvement is always possible with the right people, ideas and resources at hand.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am a champion for career and technical education, and I am also a champion of the Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE). I love this association because it has given me the opportunity to connect with passionate thought leaders and to discover useful resources that help me to grow as a professional. Whether through an ACTE fellowship program, in state leadership, or via another form of engagement, I strongly recommend that CTE educators interested in advocacy take their next step forward.

Learn more about ACTE’s Champion for CTE Award.