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RCS’ Tyra Pilgrim Earns ‘Pioneer Award’ for Career & Technical Programs

Rutherford County Schools has the second largest Career Technical Education programs in the entire state of Tennessee.

So in spite of having only been in her current role for the past two years, it wasn’t all that surprising for Tyra Pilgrim, CTE coordinator for RCS, to be recognized as a pioneer in her field.

Tennessee Directors of Career Technical Education presented Pilgrim with an award as the Middle Tennessee Region Pioneer Nominee for outstanding service in career technical education.

Then moments later, Pilgrim earned the statewide Pioneer Award.

She had previously earned the same distinction for the Mid-Cumberland District in November.

The Pioneer Award is for CTE directors with five or less years of experience in their role with a school district, while those with six or more years of experience compete for the annual Trailblazers Award.

“I was flipping out,” recalled Pilgrim, whose continued efforts were further validated with the state-level award. “I couldn’t believe it.”

She added, “For me, it was great recognition for our county and that made me excited.”

The breakfast and award presentation was part of the winter meeting between the Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee Directors of Career Technical Education, which took place in February at the Sheraton Nashville Downtown.

It’s one of four annual statewide meetings.

Pilgrim was originally nominated by the Mid-Cumberland Study Council.

Her 11-page application, included six letters of reference and a detailed outline of her accomplishments.

Pilgrim was recognized as a strategic plan leader with the Pathways Rutherford initiative on three industry sector councils — healthcare, construction and advanced manufacturing. Implemented career pathway fairs in all Rutherford County middle schools with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, industry leaders, high school CTE teachers and students.

She is also a pilot member of the Tennessee Department of Education worked-based learning rewrite of the curriculum and standards and the implementation of the new work-based learning criteria, which was presented at the Superintendent’s Council meeting along with Chelsea Parker and Tim Parrot.

“Her frequent reports to our school board during their televised meetings has fostered a deeper community-wide understanding and appreciation for Career and Technical Education opportunities within our school district,” wrote Director of Schools Don Odom, in one of six letters heralding Pilgrim’s accomplishments over the two years in her role.

Beth Duffield, senior vice president of education and workforce development for the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, praised Pilgrim for “her willingness to think outside the box.”

“I can’t think of a better partner for the Chamber and our Economic & Workforce Development team as we look to grow jobs and a well-educated workforce for the continued growth and success of Rutherford County.”

Dan Caldwell, senior manager, technical training for Nissan North America, wrote about Pilgrim’s contribution to a seven-member team that developed Pathways Rutherford, a 10-year strategic plan to meet Rutherford County’s future workforce needs.

“Realizing that equipment cost and availability is often a barrier for CTE programs,” Caldwell wrote, “Tyra reached out to me and we arranged the donation of six engines for her auto mechanics programs. This is just one of the many tangible ways that she supports her teachers and students.”

Among the legislators in attendance was Tennessee State Sen. Jim Tracy.

Tracy is a former CTE instructor and earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from the University of Tennessee – Martin.

In addition to the breakfast and awards, the quarterly gathering gives the Tennessee Department of Education, Tennessee Directors of Career Technical Education and CTE directors from school districts throughout Tennessee to meet one-on-one with legislators like Tracy, who have been proactive in helping fund CTE programs.

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