Barbara Palko, career and technology education coordinator for Charles County Public Schools, was recently named the 2012 Career and Technology Education (CTE) Outstanding Secondary Change Agent Award of Excellence recipient by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).

The award recognizes individuals that provide leadership in innovative change that positively affects career and technology education programs. Palko was nominated for the award by Thomas Weirich, principal at the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center, for her efforts in expanding CTE opportunities to students in all six Charles County public high schools. She was also nominated for her dedication to providing students with strong educational foundations before they enter the job market or pursue higher education.

According to her nomination, Palko is responsible for overseeing the expansion of CTE programs as well as the implementation of new course offerings. She has assisted in providing teacher training, updating curriculum and materials to reflect rigorous standards set by industry in career fields of study, and helped bring 11 new CTE programs of study to Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students.

Palko was surprised by her nomination and said she is humbled to be honored for doing something she loves. “This Award of Excellence was a complete surprise. I am honored to have someone even think to nominate me. I love Career Technology Education,” she said. Under Palko’s leadership, courses have been added to the interactive media production, graphic communication, career research and development (CRD) and automotive technology programs.

Additionally, last school year, the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) pre-engineering program was expanded to three additional schools, manufacturing was launched as a new CTE program and a third course in the PLTW biomedical sciences program was introduced. CTE programs provide high school students opportunities to pursue a sequential, technical and academic program of study to earn marketable skills that lead to either immediate employment upon graduation or enhanced college experiences.

These programs include business education, the Teacher Academy of Maryland (TAM), PLTW, construction and development, horticultural services, fire science, information technology and consumer services, hospitality and tourism. Palko said students that complete CTE courses can access additional career exploration opportunities upon graduation.

“If students choose, they can enter the workforce with the technical skills and experiences to give them an advantage when interviewing for a position. If they choose, they can continue on with post-secondary education, either in the same career path or a completely different major. They can also use the knowledge and credentials earned in high school to financially help with post-secondary expenses. CTE students are truly career and college ready,” she said.

The awards program is sponsored by MSDE’s Division of Career and College Readiness (DCCR) and helps showcase CTE programs and the value they add to a student’s educational experience. For more information on the program, visit