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Celebrating one of CTE's strongest advocates.

Career and technical education (CTE) is built on the hard work and dedication of those who came before us. So at a time when CTE has so much to celebrate, it is important that we honor our forefathers. Having been involved in CTE for over 40 years, I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with a variety of thought leaders, many of whom have helped mold CTE and guide its quality and growth. I consider it an honor and a privilege to recognize one of CTE's strongest advocates, Carl J. Schaefer. I am certain he had no idea of the impact his legacy would have on the future of CTE. Schaefer focused on helping his students succeed and engaged others in recognizing the importance of CTE.

CTE's Consistency

One of our greatest challenges in CTE is the continuation of a national, uniform quality education system. U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan used the term "islands of excellence" during a 2011 speech (1) when referring to the lack of uniformity in CTE. The reality is that this term has conjured up images of CTE being disconnected from the mainstream, but this could not be farther from the truth. CTE has consistently been in touch with the needs of multiple communities, educational reformists, special needs communities, labor, commerce, the military and of course, the workforce. The "islands" analogy does, however, hold some measure of truth when referring to the consistency of available resources at the local level. CTE does not lack consistency when it comes to the heritage of leadership and initiative. Carl Schaefer is an ideal example of leadership and forethought.

The consistency of CTE, in part, is based on the quality and competence of the instructors teaching the programs. At a time when vocational education was starting to take on new life in the 1960s, local administrators realized that there were few available tools to determine a potential instructor's competence. The Vocational Education Acts of 1963 and 1968 allowed funds to be utilized for the building of new shared-time facilities. These acts led to the growth of facilities around the country and spurred the need for qualified teachers to staff them. Individuals filling these positions needed to have four unique skill sets:

* A love of their craft

* The desire to help others grow

* A willingness to commit to lifelong learning

* Competence in their craft The documentation of competency is a factor that helped drive Schaefer.

A CTE Superhero

In 2010. I had the honor of meeting Schaefer and his wife JoAnn during a NOCTI Board of Trustees meeting held at the Association for Career and Technical Education's (ACTE) headquarters. Schaefer was a special guest and was honored by the then-current Board of Trustees as the last surviving founding board member. Also during this meeting, which happened on his 90th birthday, Brenda Dann-Messier, the assistant secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, presented Schaefer with a Lifetime Recognition Award. This meeting was the only time I would have the opportunity to meet him in person. The CTE community lost a great leader later that year when he passed away on December 12.

Early Life and Education

Schaefer's life should provide inspiration to those reading this article. In many ways his life parallels the drive of all CTE. educators. (If it doesn't, it should.) His focus was always on making things better. As a youth, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America. He started his "work life" as a carpenter and a machinist after graduating from Buffalo Technical High School in New York. After a brief teaching experience from 1942-1943, Schaefer served his country during World War II with Gen. George Patton in the European Theater, earning the Bronze Star with an oak leaf cluster for his bravery. He was part of the 94th Infantry Division and is mentioned in two World War II books: Patton s' Pawns: The 94th US Infinity Division at the Siegfried Line by Tony Le Tissier and Patton .'s Ghost Corps: Cracking the Siegfried Line by Nathan Prefer.

After his military service, Schaefer earned his Ph.D. from Ohio State University. In addition to his roles as a teacher, coach and supervisor at the secondary level, he also served on the faculty of Penn State University and Rutgers University. At Rutgers, he served as the first chairperson of the Vocational Technical Education Department and started the first graduate vocational education program in the nation. During his tenure in higher education, he authored well over 100 articles, books and chapters, and helped over 170 students receive their doctoral degrees.

Schaefer amassed numerous awards over his career, but according to his wife joAnn, he regarded his part in the founding of the National Occupational Competency. Testing Institute (NOCTI) as one of his most significant achievements. NOCTI was established as a national consortium (including all state directors of CTE), which enables all states and territories to take advantage of NOCTI as a resource to improve both teacher and student technical competence.

Recognizing Excellence

Schaefer's vision of the importance of national technical competence and his desire to see CTE, teachers and administrators continually improve and thrive lives on through NOCTI. Shortly after his passing, NOCTI established the Carl J. Schaefer Memorial Award, which recognizes the efforts of those individuals desiring to become GTE teachers. As a result of a donation from his wife, NOCTI has been given the opportunity to recognize a second individual striving for self-improvement within the GTE field. JoAnn Schaefer said of her late husband, "He just took each day at a time to help his students, and tried to guide them in the right direction. Educating people in their trade was one of his achievements--whether they wanted to be administrators or journeymen at work." This year, NOCTI is pleased and proud to present the inaugural Carl J. Schaefer Memorial Award to two individuals.

The first award winner is Derek Hazlett, a welding teacher at Carter County Career and Technical School in Kentucky. Hazlett was a graduate of the program he now teaches. While a student at Carter, he was listed on the national honor roll and participated in the gifted and talented program. After receiving multiple certifications and running his own welding business, Hazlett decided it was time to give back. After successfully passing the NOCTI teacher exam, he pursued becoming a fully certified CTE teacher. Hazlett's goal For students leaving his program is for them to be job-ready welders, able to continue their education or immediately start a welding career. Hazlett is currently working on his bachelor's in occupation-based CTE from Morehead State University in Kentucky.

Diana Penn has been named as the second Schaefer Memorial Award winner. Penn is pursuing her master's from Temple University in Pennsylvania. She graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and has worked in her field for over 20 years. She has a BS in Organizational Behavior and Applied Psychology from Albright College. Penn, like Hazlett, holds multiple certifications of distinction in her field. She, too, decided to give back to her profession and pursued a teaching career at Upper Bucks Career and Technical Center in Pennsylvania. Even with her culinary background, she diligently prepared for her technical NOCTI assessment. She describes her proudest moments as a teacher as being those that allow her to see students' confidence grow as they master successively more difficult content.

Schaefer would have been proud of these individuals because they both exemplify the drive to increase their knowledge and to help their students be the best they can become. He would also be proud to know that he personally helped to shape and improve the field of CTE through his passion and dedication.

Leaving a Legacy

There are two quotes that exemplify the work of Schaefer and his legacy. The first is from the past president of Rutgers University, Richard L. McCormick, during Schaefer's memorial service. He stated, "Dr. Schaefer was a man whose success was measured in the accomplishments of others." The second reflects Schaefer's passion for CTE. In 1962, he was quoted in a local newspaper article as saying, "The dignity of useful work is our heritage, something to be proud of. ... It is currently on the defensive and it should never be." (2)

As we celebrate the proud heritage of CTE, let's take a moment to remember and recognize those who helped to pave the way and those who have helped us down our paths.


(1.) Sec. of Education Arne Duncan's speech to the State Directors of Career and Technical Education, April 18, 2011. Retrieved from:

(2.) Waters, Bertram G. (1962, January 16). Survey brings new hope to education's step-child. Centre Daily Times, State College. PA.

John Foster, Ph.D., is president/CEO of NOCTI. He can be reached at
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Title Annotation:In Celebration of CTE; career and technical education; Carl J. Schaefer
Author:Foster, John
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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