Advisors of the Year

The SkillsUSA State Directors Association created the Advisor of the Year award to recognize and honor dedicated career and technical education instructors who serve as SkillsUSA advisors. State winners are submitted to the regional competition. At NLSC, regional winners are interviewed and a national winner is selected.

To nominate someone for advisor of the year, please contact your state association director.

The 2017 regional Advisors of the Year are:

Region 1 (Maryland)

Richard Stephens
Richard Stephens has been a career and technology instructor at Worcester Technical High School in Newark, Md., for 32 years, and he’s been a SkillsUSA advisor for 28 of those years. During his tenure, Stephens has received numerous awards, including WTHS Teacher of the Year, SkillsUSA Maryland Advisor of the Year and Region One Advisor of the Year. The awards have come for good reason: since becoming lead SkillsUSA advisor in 2000, Stephens has grown his chapter from 60 students to more than 250. He’s personally supervised and trained 300 local chapter officers, many of whom have gone on to state office. Always keeping the big picture in mind, Stephens has selflessly facillitated several state-wide advisor workshops to make sure that other advisors are ready and motivated to make their students’ SkillsUSA experience as rewarding as possible. “We just feed off his passion and energy,” says a student. That passion and energy continues to change lives every day.

Region 2  (Tennessee)

Clyde Rush
Clyde Rush is a culinary arts instructor at Cleveland (Tenn.) High School, and he’s been a SkillsUSA advisor for 13 years. According to peers, his passion for SkillsUSA and his belief in what the organization can do in the lives of students fuels everything he does. His ability to teach his students exceptional technical skills is matched by his commitment to make sure they leave his program with equally strong leadership skills. His innovative leadership programs and chapter activities attest to that commitment. So strong is Rush’s belief in the SkillsUSA mission that he’s vowed to start a chapter wherever he teaches. He ensures the effectiveness of his chapter by making sure administrators are fully invested in the program and understand the benefits to the students and the school. He also fosters a collaborative atmosphere with other programs in the school to make sure students continue to learn from and grow with each other. Rush is a great example of what one committed advisor can accomplish in school and the community.

Region 3 (Michigan)

Julie Ivan
A SkillsUSA advisor for 14 years, Julie Ivan is a culinary instructor at Saginaw (Mich.) Career Complex. She started her chapter with two interested students, and has since seen thousands come through her program. She’s even helped eight make it to the national level of competition. Ivan serves on the state technical committee for culinary arts, helping to make sure the state-level competition reflects the national level. She also serves as the WorldSkills bakery expert, helping the WorldSkills technical committee develop the international competition. An advisor who values leadership and competition equally, her class accounts for more than 50 percent of the students attending the fall leadership conference from her school. This is especially noteworthy considering her school’s urban environment, where most of the students live at or below the poverty line in what ranks as the fourth most violent city in America. Ivan, however, doesn’t let anything stop her from delivering gold standard leadership and technical instruction. As one student said to Ivan, “I could’ve walked the streets of Saginaw. Instead, I walked on a college campus.”

Region 4 (Missouri)

Debbie Lathum
A multimedia instructor at Current River Career Center in Doniphan, Mo., Debbie Lathum has served SkillsUSA as an advisor for 20 years. Teaching was a second career choice for Lathum, who’d worked as an accountant for more than 20 years before taking the plunge into the waters of education. It’s since proven to have been a great decision. Lathum has maintained 100-percent membership in her program since 1998, and that’s in large part to her contagious enthuiasm and passion. She ensures here students’ success by implementing a yearly program of work and making sure that program is integrated directly into the culture of the school. Community service is a big part of that program, and some of her chapter’s projects have become mainstays in the local community for years now. Lathum is called “the face of SkillsUSA” in her school and her community. Committed to her own professional development, she’s also an active member of numerous professional associations. According to her peers, Lathum “knows and lives by the SkillsUSA creed” and is always more than willing to go “beyond the call of duty” to help her students succeed.

Region 5 (New Mexico)

Oscar Contreras
For the past six years, Oscar Contreras has been a SkillsUSA advisor at Hobbs (N.M.) High School. A construction instructor, Contreras understands the value of industry involvement in his program, and he’s established fruitful relationships with partners to provide training and job shadowing opportunities his students would otherwise never receive. He also mentors fellow teachers and advisors, making sure they understand how to run their own classrooms and chapters with the highest level of proficiency. Contreras has great credentials to that effect, with his chapter receiving a national model of excellence award in 2015. He also leads various community service projects at the community and state levels, including pancake breakfasts, Veterans Day activities, Habitat for Humanity projects and more. Contreras has rebuilt the state officer program completely, implementing a new application process and training program that paid fast dividends when one of Contreras’ students was elected to SkillsUSA national office, a first for Hobbs High School and the first national officer from New Mexico in almost thirty years. Contreras is described by one of his peers as “one of those rare individuals who seek to serve rather than be served, and it is with this attitude that he lives each day.”