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Sealy named ALACTE administrator of the year

LaFAYETTE — The Alabama Career and Technical Education (ALACTE) has named Inspire Academy Director Ken Sealy its administrator of the year. ALACTE serves all counselors, teachers and staff who are involved in career tech education throughout the state. Sealy was chosen for the award from a final four that included him and the career tech administrators from Mobile, Limestone, and Chilton counties.

“I know all of them,” Sealy said. “They are all very fine people, and it’s an honor to be in the same grouping with them. What means the most to me is that the award was decided in a vote of my peers.”

Sealy was nominated in the health sciences division.

The administrator of the year award recognizes exemplary performance in being innovative, supporting and advancing career tech education.

Sealy is presently serving as the president of the Alabama Career Tech Association (ACTA). He is currently in the second year of that role. His term expires on Aug. 21.

“I have been heavily involved on the state side for a while now,” Sealy said. “Over the last few years, I have worked on everything from organizing conferences to working with teacher certification. It has been very busy.”

Sealy has been an educator for the past 25 years. He said that 2020 has been the most difficult year he has experienced.

“The current situation with COVID-19 has made everything 10 times harder than it has ever been before,” he said.

The Administrator of the Year award was originally set to be announced at ALACTE’s annual conference at Perdido Beach. It was canceled because of the coronavirus. The announcement was made in a three-day virtual conference that took place this week.

The Alabama Career Tech Association (ACTA) normally has a statewide professional development conference every spring. That was canceled as well.

“Because of COVID, this has been the hardest school year I can ever remember,” Sealy said. “I’ve worried about every single teacher and student. I don’t want anyone getting sick. I am just hoping we can all hold it together until we get past COVID.”

Chambers County Career Tech has a new name: Inspire Academy.

“It has been a long time coming,” Sealy said. “We see roughly 600 students every day. If you include what we offer on other campuses, around 1,000 students are in some kind of career tech program. Our focus is for kids to be ready to go to work when they graduate high school. It’s no different when you graduate from college. Once your education is over, you go to work. At Inspire Academy, we are all about helping students learn job skills. We want them to have interviewing skills and first-rate resumes. This will help them get a job. We want them to be able to keep that job and to advance in a career.”

Sealy said students at Inspire Academy learn all that while in school.

“It is so beneficial for them to learn that here,” he said.

A career path starts for eighth graders who are in career preparedness classes at J.P. Powell and W.F. Burns middle schools. Seniors in health sciences are doing clinical placements that lead to employment in good-paying jobs.

“There are jobs like that in the local community,” Sealy said.

Inspire Academy has a manufacturing program where students can learn engineering, PLC and machining skills.

“We train them to expect what they will be doing at a job in manufacturing,” Sealy said. “Our cosmetology courses teach them what it will be like to work in a salon. They can earn their license when they are still in school.”

The health sciences courses offer two certification programs, one that leads to being a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and one to being a patient care technician (PCT).

PCTs work in doctor’s offices and can do EKGs and blood work.

“It’s a great stepping stone to being an LPN or RN,” Sealy said. “It gives you the chance to work with patients. It puts you right in the action.”

There’s lots of buses rolling into Inspire Academy every day.

“We serve students from LaFayette High, Valley High and Lanett High,” Sealy said. “We also serve students from Chambers Academy, Five Points, W.F. Burns and J.P. Powell.”

Inspire Academy hosts the Chambers County School District’s virtual program. One of the academy’s teachers swings between J.P. Powell and W.F. Burns, and there’s a teacher education program embedded at Huguley and Eastside elementary schools.

“If you have any interest in being a teacher, that’s where you need to be,” Sealy said.

The academy has a novel program where high school students can work with elementary-level kids in a clinical environment.

A very popular FFA program is taught by Josh Bryan and J.B. Harris.

“We are offering everything from horticulture  to agriculture construction to animal sciences and industrial agriculture,” Sealy said. “It’s a very strong program. ALFA and the Farmers Federation have been very supportive of us. They have helped us tremendously.”

A surging interest in career tech education has created an unexpected problem.

“We are almost out of room on our campus,” Sealy said. “I’d love for us to be offering more. I think the best way for us to teach kids is to put them into something practical. It gives them a chance to learn core concepts and learn how to work.”

Sealy is enthusiastic about two career tech programs being taught at LaFayette High, one in culinary arts and one in graphic design. Students from Valley High are being bused over to take them.

“Our task is to put kids where they need to be to be successful in a given field,” Sealy said. “All of our programs offer some kind of certification or a post-secondary credential that will mean something for the future.”

In agriculture, for example, the career tech student can earn Briggs & Stratton certification and in the automotive program they can earn the highly-respected Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification.

Sealy said he started out as a history teacher. Being an administrator in career tech is totally different.

“In teaching history, you are a guardian of the past,” he said.

“Napoleon died on the same day whether you teach it this year, 25 years ago or a hundred years from now. In career tech, we are constantly changing what we teach. To keep up with the future, we have to change something every year. CAD (computer aided design) software is updated all the time. We have to keep up with those changes.”

ALACTE is Alabama’s link to Capitol Hill when it comes to federal legislation concerning career and technical education. The organization’s mission is to provide educational leadership in developing a competitive workforce through advocacy and public policy, professional development and public relations.