Sometimes, dynamic CTE teachers leap from the classroom into state-level leadership roles. That’s the path Eric Gomez took to become the new State CTE Director of New Mexico.
The son of a Marine, Eric grew up in California and a number of other locations in the Southwest. As a high school student, he discovered a fondness for automotive technology, and made that his academic focus. He participated in SkillsUSA as well as a Ford-AAA competition where participants had 90 minutes to solve a complex automotive problem on an actual vehicle. He performed so well that he was offered a scholarship for further studies in Lubbock, Texas.
Eric soon discovered that he had a true passion not just for automotive technology, but also for teaching others about it. He returned to his own high school in Dexter, New Mexico, to become a teacher, where he led the local chapter of Skills USA, and took students to the Ford-AAA competition that he had so successfully participated in as a student himself. He soon set his sights on becoming a principal, so he earned a graduate degree in educational administration. But instead of leading a school, he was recruited by the University of New Mexico to oversee not just automotive instruction, but all of the university’s transportation education programs. He found this to be a perfect balance of pushing an institution forward, while still spending time teaching students.
Ten years later, Eric took what he described as a “long shot” and applied to be the State CTE Director for New Mexico. He was hired swiftly due to his experience and commitment to the field. Now on the job for a few months, he has had the following three major observations:
- Teachers from industry need help to maximize their confidence in the classroom. They know the subject matter, but if they don’t feel equipped to teach, they may return to industry.
- Equity is of paramount importance in New Mexico.
- The state’s biggest challenge for CTE is finding teachers. This is a common trend across the Advance CTE membership, and Eric is attempting to combat it by encouraging teachers to maintain their private businesses in the afternoons and during summer breaks. He hopes that will offset the drop in salary that some encounter when transitioning from industry to the classroom.
Eric said, “This is now bigger than automotive technology; I get to help with all programs across the state of New Mexico,” and it’s easy to hear the excitement in his voice.
Eric lives in Roswell, New Mexico, and is married with two children. Education is a priority for his family: his wife is a school counselor at a military boarding school, which his daughter will attend, and his teenage son is exploring paths in STEM and robotics.
Please join us in welcoming Eric to his new role, and to Advance CTE!
Steve McFarland, Director of Communications and Membership