CTE director gains state recognition

Sandra ClarkFountain City, Our Town Leaders

Dr. Keith Wilson, director of Career and Technical Education (CTE) for Knox County Schools, is among nine finalists for the Tennessee Department of Education’s supervisor of the year.


Wilson, 42, holds a master’s degree and doctorate in education from Carson-Newman University. He taught middle school science in Knox County Schools (2001-09) before becoming an assistant principal and then systemwide coordinator of TAP and director of professional learning. He got the CTE job in November 2017.

Dr. Keith Wilson

CTE is today’s name for classes once called vocational education. Many are hands-on and that makes the COVID-19 challenge interesting. Wilson says some classes, like welding, require a lab environment with tools, making them impossible to teach remotely. But others, such as computer science and programming, are more easily structured for virtual learning.

And this ties into Wilson’s ideas of leadership.

“Leaders are not magical or necessarily smarter than others,” he says. “Leaders have a willingness to step out and accept responsibility.” He feels comfortable not always having the answer. “I like to learn and I have the will to answer the unanswered.”

He is surrounded by smart people, he says, including his former football coach, Buck Coatney. Other CTE specialists are Jeana Kirby, Ulla Carr, Chris Tucker, John Faulconer and Steve Huettel.

Yes, Keith Wilson is a Fulton Falcon, and that’s like being a Marine. We just don’t have former Fulton Falcons.

When Wilson accepted the CTE job, Coatney took him to meet Mike Edwards, Mark Field and Amy Nolan at the Knoxville Chamber. Conversations were eye-openers for Wilson.

“They helped me frame my program. … We have gotten very good at getting kids into college, but are they there with a purpose? I never thought about any of that when I taught middle school science.

“How do we get kids in Knoxville to stay and work in Knoxville and make good incomes?”

The answer for many is robust offerings of CTE.

Wilson said Chamber leaders have worked with CTE to encourage internships and externships, to provide in-class speakers and job-site shadows. Mike Odom, the Chamber’s new president, was a cohort in the recently completed Leadership Knoxville Class of 2020.

Wilson was honored to be included and he benefited from the experience, even though it was limited by the onset of COVID-19. He’s all about building relationships to benefit CTE students and he’s a student of leadership styles.

It’s easy to see why he’s a finalist in the supervisor of the year competition. Finalists will be interviewed in the coming weeks and winners for each Grand Division and the state winners will be announced this fall.

Meanwhile, the Wilson family lives in Fountain City with daughters at Gibbs and Central and sons at Shannondale Elementary. Knox County students will start school Aug. 24. Wilson is encouraging teachers to evaluate the pacing and sequencing of coursework in case in-person classes are shut down. He’s carefully considered the procedures at Pellissippi State where most classes went virtual in the spring, yet a few necessary labs remained open.

Learn more about Career and Technical Education here. Contact Dr. Wilson at keith.wilson@knoxschools.org.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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