Pannell, RCU shine at national conference

Myra Pannell, an instructional design specialist at Mississippi State Univeristy's Research and Curriculum Unit, was recognized recently at the Association for Career and Technical Education's annual convention and career tech expo in St. Louis, Mo., with the 2011 Service Award by the Engineering and Technology Education Division. She has been the division's post-secondary supervision representative for the past three years.

In her service to the committee, Pannell acted as a liaison between community colleges and ACTE.

The association "wanted us to communicate with community colleges and see what needs they had and what we could do on a national level to be of support to them," she said, when asked to describe her committee work.

This year, she will be the division secretary.

ACTE is the national organization for career-technical education, something in which the RCU is widely invested.

Betsey Smith, the RCU's curriculum manager, believes national conferences like this one are important in how the curriculum department conducts its work. The ACTE conference is "where our group in curriculum can see trends or give trends that Mississippi is moving towards," she said.

With more than 27,000 ACTE members nationwide and an estimated 4,000 conference attendees, important contacts are made at these conferences. According to Smith, those contacts can often translate into new ideas that the RCU can pass along to Mississippi's school districts and eventually on to the individual CTE programs.

Pannell agrees.

"We use (the conference) to try to gauge where we are," Pannell explained, noting how she enjoys learning how Mississippi measures up to, and often exceeds, other states in the development of career-technical education.

Another major aspect of these conferences is the committees on which members can serve. These committees are often involved in the writing of national policy that states look to as guidelines when making CTE decisions. Smith was asked to represent the Guidance and Career Development Policy Committee as the Region IV representative.

After a "rigorous selection process," Robin Parker, RCU manager of curriculum, instruction and assessment, was invited to serve on the ACTE School Reform Taskforce, a committee comprised of 12 career-technical education leaders and educators from across the state.

The committee, which also met at last year's conference, is working to finalize a white paper and recommendation to the national legislature. The report, which will be completed and published in March 2012, "will specifically drive ACTE's advocacy efforts for policy change related to school reform, and the role that CTE should play in good, successful school reform," said Parker.

In addition to promoting CTE programs at the national level, Parker also made two presentations at ACTE, as did many others on the RCU staff. Among those presenting papers were Pannell, Smith, Marilyn Bowen, Denise Sibley, Cathy Davis, Emily Owen, Scott Kolle, Leanne Long and Sean Owen.

Topics covered included everything from "The Career Pathway Experience: Closing the Work-Based Learning Opportunity Gap in a Jobless Economy" to "Preparing Teachers for the 21st-Century Classroom Through Performance-Based Instructional Strategies."

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