It only took moving 5,000 miles away and spending three years in Ukraine for Andrea Zimmermann to realize she loved education.
An Illinois native who studied political journalism, Zimmermann’s journey has taken her from the Peace Corps to the U.S. Department of Education to be a national advocate for career and technical education. Now at IDEA as the new director of Career and Technical Education, Zimmermann will ensure that all IDEA scholars are prepared for their important next step after high school, including college, career, military or the workplace. She said she looks forward to collaborating closely with CTE and academic instructors to make this happen.
“CTE is a dynamic way to deliver education,” Zimmermann explained. “CTE blends rigorous academics with technical skills. Scholars are applying what they’re learning in the classroom with hands-on projects and real-world experience.”
Zimmermann’s early experiences in education came when she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine helping train future teachers. “I fell in love with working in a school, working shoulder to shoulder with teachers. We were able to do so many cool projects together and infuse different curricula into the classroom,” she said. For example, Zimmermann helped teachers develop a debate camp that culminated in a debate competition and create an English language camp for local high school students that was taught by the students who were training to be future English teachers. “At the camp, students in our teacher training program were co-teachers to deliver and practice work-based learning. This helped the local high school students who wanted to learn practical English and helped these future teachers get an early taste of what it would be like to lead your own classroom.”
After three years in Ukraine, Zimmermann moved to Washington, DC to gain a big-picture perspective on the education system. Her first job here was with the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of Postsecondary Education. “I had the opportunity to work with the Assistant Secretary for Career and Technical and Adult Education,” she recalled. “I realized that I had known about CTE my entire life, but I didn’t have a name for it before.”
“My father worked as a line worker for the phone company. As the telecommunications industry evolved and digital and internet became the norm, he had to do more training. That showed me how technical skills have currency. No matter what happens in the economy you’re going to have a safety net when you can use those skills in so many different ways.”
When Zimmermann left the Department of Education, she took a position with Advance CTE, a national nonprofit organization working to collect, promote, and disseminate best practices in CTE around the country. “I was excited to move into public policy, where I had the opportunity to get a sense of the whole landscape of CTE, including in high schools, technical colleges, and apprenticeships.”
She then moved into a new role within the organization doing leadership development for new state leaders of CTE. “I loved working closely with our members to identify challenges and find resources and best practices to tackle those challenges. It gave me an understanding of how states and local schools were improving outcomes for students.”
Now, at IDEA, Zimmermann looks forward to putting those ideas to use. “I want to make sure that every IDEA scholar has experiences across the continuum of work-based learning,” she explained. “That includes career exploration such as career fairs and guest speakers all the way to more intensive exposure such as internships and apprenticeships.” Creating connections between academic disciplines and CTE classes--such as integrating environmental science and green entrepreneurship--is another priority.
“I’m excited to be collaborating with teachers in this role,” Zimmerman said. “Teachers are so creative and I want to support them and our scholars in finding new ways to teach and learn together.”
Programs that fall under the Zimmermann’s purview include the Academy of Construction and Design, the Child Development Associate program, video game design and coding, green entrepreneurship, graphic design and print entrepreneurship, Urban Alliance and other internships, and dual enrollment with the University of the District of Columbia Community College.
You can contact Zimmermann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.399.4750.