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ACTE
Virginia ACTE is an affiliate of the national Association for Career and Technical Education.

Mary EckertHome : President’s Message

Surf and Turf: Making a Case for Steak and Lobster

Mary Eckert, PhD, 2017–18 Virginia ACTE President (about Dr. Eckert)

I recently had the opportunity at a national ACTE Conference to hear a speech by Dr. Michael Armbruster, Senior Executive Director for Career and Technical Education for Orange County Public Schools. His message resonated with me.

For years, school counselors, administrators, parents, students, and even teachers viewed the post-secondary education choice as the best, most desirable choice on the rather limited educational menu. Post-secondary education was the steak we longed for; whereas, Career and Technical Education (CTE) was sadly considered the less desirable choice, or the hamburger.  With a career readiness paradigm shift and the new Profile of a Virginia Graduate, one could argue that the post-secondary choice may still be the steak, but now CTE is the lobster. 

Both menu items are desirable, depending on a student’s life goals. Students now have the opportunity to choose both surf and turf (steak and lobster) if they want; or they can choose one or the other.  Career and Technical Education is leading the career readiness charge as our world rapidly changes; CTE is the high-tech, rigorous, and relevant choice our students need for their life and career goals.

Through extensive research and input, the Virginia Board of Education determined, “the Profile of a Virginia Graduate describes the knowledge, skills, experiences and attributes that students must attain to be successful in college and/or the work force and to be ‘life ready’ in an economy and a world characterized by rapid change. The board has determined that a life-ready Virginia graduate must:

“The 2016 General Assembly approved, and the governor signed, House Bill 895 and Senate Bill 336, which directed the Board of Education to:

The Virginia Association for Career and Technical Education (Virginia ACTE) is committed to supporting CTE educators as they provide work-based learning opportunities and career readiness curricula (the lobster on the menu) to our middle- and high-school students. Virginia ACTE unifies everyone working to increase the capacity of CTE, including teachers, administrators, business partners, parents, and the larger community. We are sending a strong message of advocacy to increase awareness, expand relevant CTE programs, enhance leadership, and develop a competitive workforce in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


Mary Eckert, PhD, 2017–18 Virginia ACTE President

Dr. Eckert is a Career and Technical Education Program Manager for Chesterfield County Public Schools. She received her bachelor’s degree in Marketing Education and Basic Business from Old Dominion University and her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Administration and Supervision Pre-K12 (Educational Leadership) with a cognate in Public Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Eckert spent 16 years teaching Marketing Education for Henrico County Public Schools, during which time she also served as an administrative aide. She was a summer school administrator before accepting the position of Educational Specialist for Business Information Technology and Marketing Education, where she remained for 11 years before joining Chesterfield County Public Schools’ Office of Career and Technical Education in 2014.

Dr. Eckert has earned several National Association of Counties (NACo) Awards for exemplary secondary programs and several Virginia CTE Creating Excellence Awards. She has served on a variety of school-based committees and CTE Advisory Councils. She represented CTE on the J. Sargeant Reynolds Capital Area Partners for Educational Reform (CAPER) Board, and she currently sits on the John Tyler Community College Partnership to Ensure Educational Reform (PEER) Consortium Board. Dr. Eckert served as Secretary for the Virginia Association of CTE Administrators (VACTEA) as well as Secretary, President-Elect, and now President for the Virginia Association for Career and Technical Education (Virginia ACTE). 

Dr. Eckert is a strong supporter of and advocate for Career and Technical Education. She works to ensure all students receive rigorous and relevant instruction, life-skills, credentials, and exposure to a variety of career pathways necessary to navigate the rapidly changing, interconnected, and technology-focused world.