Aimee Brown, the Mississippi Department of Education’s bureau director for career and technical education, speaks at the 2019 MS ACTE Summer Conference in Jackson.
Mississippi’s New CTE Director Emphasizes Providing Tangible, Value-Added Certifications, Designations and Experiences to All Students
Aimee Brown’s desire to make a positive difference in the world is what motivated her to become an educator. As the state’s newest director of career and technical education (CTE), she is poised to help shape how the next generation of Mississippi students graduate with college- and career-ready skills.
Brown is leading the Mississippi Department of Education’s (MDE’s) effort to write and implement the Perkins V state plan, the document that will guide how CTE is delivered and measured here in Mississippi, after federal lawmakers approved the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act that re-authorized the Carl D. Perkins Act of 2006 — also known as Perkins V — in 2018.
The magnitude of shaping such an important piece of educational policy is not lost upon Brown, who said she hopes the new guide will leave a strong legacy for leaders to build upon in the future.
“We’re at a great point with CTE in Mississippi: We’re writing our new Perkins V plan that will drive our work for at least the next five years, and we’re pairing that with a strategic plan for the entire state. To me, it’s an exciting time to renew our efforts and show how we’re making a positive difference for Mississippi’s workforce.”
Her main goal for CTE in the future is simple: ensure students graduate with tangible, value-added designations — national certifications and work-based learning experience, for example — that signal their readiness for life after high school, whether the young adults enter the workforce immediately or attend one of the state’s community colleges or universities.
By providing these options and others, including dual-credit opportunities and assistance toward earning a Silver designation on the ACT WorkKeys assessment, Brown said administrators can provide educational pathways more in line with individual students’ needs.
“There are so many great choices that have unique benefits for students. There are students that will benefit from work-based learning and moving from an apprenticeship to a job; however, there are others who might benefit more from receiving an industry credential first,” she said. “I want every student to leave with something tangible in their hands, whether it’s a certificate for finishing an apprenticeship or an industry certification, that shows they have skills for their next phase of life.”
Increasing support for CTE teachers and student organizations and continuing to integrate curricula that improves students’ soft skills will also ensure learners are successful in their lives outside of the classroom, Brown said.
“I want to see all program areas and student organizations work better together and to see us promote these two student opportunities as co-curricular, not extra-curricular. A lot of teachers do that well, but I want to aid those who need a little help,” she said. “I want to see a majority of our CTE students in these student organizations so they can build experience and leadership skills, compete with their peers and be ready for the real world.”
Before joining the MDE this summer, Brown previously spent 20 years in a variety of education-related jobs, ranging from teaching business and computer technology in Leake County to serving as a community college instructor.
Most recently, she served 12 years as the CTE director and Career Academy coordinator for the Madison County School District (MCSD), where CTE programs expanded, relationships between CTE and district high schools grew stronger and two career academies received national model academy designation through the National Career Academy Coalition under her leadership.
Brown is also a former Mississippi Association for Career and Technical Education president and earned numerous awards and honors throughout her career, including the association’s Member of the Year in 2015. Additionally, she was named MCSD’s Administrator of the Year in 2009. She also served as president, webmaster and treasurer of the Mississippi Business Education Association; national vice president of the Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Betta Lambda Professional Division; and president of the Mississippi Educational Computing Association.
Reflecting on her career, Brown said she is rewarded when she encounters former high school students who have grown up to become “great employees, great parents and all-around great people.” As an administrator, Brown said she hopes to inspire other teachers to return to the classroom and inspire their own students.
“A guidance counselor in Hattiesburg that’s part of the new Administrator’s Academy for CTE came up to me and said, ‘You might not remember this, but I went to one of your trainings in 2010. That inspired me to get my specialist and doctoral degrees and to do what I’m doing now.’ We don’t do this for a pat on the back, but I hope she will carry that on in her life and inspire someone else,” Brown said. “It’s a great feeling to see that your work impacts others and helps them be better in their own lives.
“I think we, as educators, should ask ourselves, ‘What kind of legacy are we leaving behind that makes things better for the future?’ I hope it’s one that the next generation can carry on and improve once we’re gone,” she added.