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AIRSS Forms the Rural IL Career and Technical Education Advisory Council

The Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools (AIRSS) is thrilled to announce the creation of an Advisory Council for the Rural IL CTE Project, a partnership between AIRSS and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). This high-level group brings together CTE educators, rural school administrators, nonprofit advocates, national experts, and industry partners for a series of conversations about the present state and future growth of rural CTE programs. The Councilmembers will meet monthly to share their perspectives and expertise on the topic with AIRSS in order to meaningfully interpret the data gathered from the other aspects of the larger project. The earnest reflections and feedback from this elite group will be instrumental in forming the final report of recommendations for ISBE.


We’re proud to introduce the members of this Council:




Sally Arnett-Hartwick

Sally Arnett-Hartwick is a professor and program coordinator of the Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher Education program at Illinois State University, and has been engaged with CTE for over 30 years. Sally is also the President of the Illinois Association of Career and Technical Education (IACTE), a state-wide organization that supports CTE educators.




Garret David Hunter

Garret David Hunter is an Engineering and Technology professor at Western Illinois University. He has been involved in CTE for 35 years.







Matthew Klaska

Matthew Klaska is the Superintendent of V.I.T. CUSD #2 in rural west central Illinois. He has served his district for 16 years as a physical education teacher, health teacher, dean of students, academic advisor, assistant principal, elementary principal, football and baseball coach, and now superintendent.




Brooke May

Brooke May is a CTE Career Pathway Coordinator at Vienna High School, where she heads up a grant from ISBE to expand career pathways for students across a collaborative network of rural and small schools in Southern Illinois. She has been an educator from preschool through community college for over 20 years, including instructing CTE.




David Messersmith

David Messersmith is the Director of Education for Employment Regional Delivery System 265, a local-level organization that coordinates resources and support for CTE programs in west central Illinois. Prior to this position, he has been a CTE teacher, principal, and superintendent.




Blake Noland

Blake Noland is a founder of Birddog Careers, a private enterprise that provides learning experiences for high school students to explore trade pathways and earn industry certifications. Much of his work is rooted in his own experiences growing up and working on his family farm.





Mariah Suddarth

Mariah Suddarth is an Education & Industry Partnerships Manager for Trane, Inc. Mariah and her colleagues create CTE programming with local schools using Trane specialists and tools.





Dan Whisler

Dan Whisler is an Educator in Residence for Trane, Inc. Dan travels to schools to lead CTE workshops with students and teachers using the skills and tools available through Trane.






Joe T. Wood

Joe T. Wood is a CTE educator, advocate, and expert from Western Tennessee. He has taught for 37 years and has worked directly with the National Rural Education Association as well as the State of Tennessee to inform the creation of innovative CTE policies and systems.



Thank you to the Rural IL CTE Advisory Council Members for taking the time to collaborate with AIRSS on this new project. We are looking forward to great conversations and ideas to come as we work together to support high-quality, equitable education opportunities for all rural students.

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