I love beginnings. I love the beginning of spring, I love the beginning of a trip, a new novel, each new holiday season, new life. I love the sounds, the smells, the memories and the challenges that each new beginning brings. I especially love the beginning of school. When I was a kid, I was always ready to go back at the end of summer. A new school year meant new shoes and clothes (even underwear). It meant new books, new friends and new challenges. As a teacher, I loved the beginning of school for all those same reasons, but also for the opportunity it brought. There is great hope at the beginning of the school year. On the first day I always asked my students 5 things they wanted to learn this semester. My favorite answer: “everything”. I also asked for 5 goals and the number of students who said, “I want to do better than last year”, always amazed me. There it was: new clothes, new pencils, a haircut and so much hope. Within that hope was responsibility and challenge. Perhaps that was what I loved, because inside our biggest challenges are our biggest opportunities.

This year, as we begin the new school year, we also begin Arizona’s second century. We are well aware of the challenges facing our country, our state and CTE. But again, inside those challenges are our biggest opportunities because we also know:

  • the economy cannot recover without a skilled and knowledgeable workforce.
  • more students than ever are taking CTE courses, and we know the effect of those courses on their future success.
  • for the first time in a long time, the phrase career-ready appears right beside college-ready.
  • we have strong and determined allies at the Arizona Department of Education.

I repeat these points I made at summer conference because this is our opportunity. CTE stands positioned to be the answer, or at the very least a big part of the answer, to every issue facing our country today. We need leaders who believe CTE works to lead us into Arizona’s future. Bill Gates said, “As we look ahead to the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” I believe if you think about what you do within CTE, you will realize you empower others everyday. CTE works and we are in position to empower the future of Arizona and the future of this country. Together this challenge that faces our country and our state is the greatest opportunity we have ever had to prove the value and significance of what we do. Each of you is poised to be the leader that will take CTE into Arizona’s second century. Seize this moment!