MARLBOROUGH — The Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators (MAVA) held their annual Connecting for Success conference this week.

The conference was held from June 28-30 at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Marlborough. The theme of this year’s conference was “Renew. Revitalize. Reconnect.”

“After all we’ve been through these past few years, it was terrific to be back in person hosting this conference,” MAVA Executive Director Steven Sharek said. “It is so important to connect with colleagues to celebrate the work we do promoting technical education across the state.”

Connecting for Success is the largest professional development conference for vocational-technical and agricultural educators in New England. The three-day event included a pre-conference on Tuesday that featured several lectures and seminars led by industry professionals. 

More than 460 educators attended the main conference, with 90 educators at the pre-conference.

The two-day conference portion on Wednesday and Thursday was opened by a keynote presentation by Dr. Kalise Wornum, of KW Diversity, Inc., a well-known and highly-regarded speaker in Massachusetts and across the country. Dr. Wornum is an educational leader, workshop facilitator and author who specializes in the area of anti-racist education and cultural proficiency though her dynamic insight and study of best practices for having difficult conversations around race and diversity.

The conference concluded with a closing keynote address by Dr. Matthew X. Joseph, a noted author who has nearly 30 years of experience as a school and district leader in many public education capacities. Past roles such as Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Director of Digital Learning and Innovation, elementary school principal, classroom teacher and district professional development specialist have provided him with deep personal insights on how to best support teaching and learning, which he conveys in his speaking appearances.

Breakout sessions over the course of the conference touched on a wide variety of topics pertaining to vocational and technical education. Topics during Wednesday’s sessions included discussions on mindfulness and emotional wellness, inclusion, safety practices in vocational shop settings, cutting-edge technological approaches to education, and more.

Thursday’s sessions included topics such as best practices for digital learning and social media, vocational teacher licensure, inspiring women in CTE leadership, supporting the needs of students on the Autism spectrum and implicit-bias awareness. 

In addition to broader topics, several sessions also included trade-specific discussions in areas such as cosmetology, programming, landscaping/forestry, construction, veterinary science, culinary arts and welding. 

MAVA would like to acknowledge the many presenters, sponsors and vendors for contributing to the conference, as well as the staff at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School for hosting the event.

“Over the course of these three days we were able to learn from each other, meet new people and understand the many ways in which we can all promote technical education,” said outgoing MAVA president and Assabet Valley Superintendent Ernest Houle. “Observing the breakout sessions and walking through the vendor hall it is so evident the amount of passion and advanced knowledge we were able to bring together for this conference and we cannot wait to build on this success moving forward.”

New Officers

MAVA also welcomed its new slate of officers this week. Officers include the following:

  • President: Dr. Andrew Linkenhoker, Superintendent, Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School
  • Vice President: Dr. Heidi Riccio, Superintendent, Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School
  • Treasurer: Dr. Denise Pigeon, Superintendent, Nashoba Valley Technical High School
  • Secretary: Aaron Polansky, Superintendent-Director, Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School
  • Immediate Past President: Ernest Houle, Superintendent-Director, Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School


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