BRINGING THE TRADES TO REMOTE LEARNING
Most students spend their last year or two of high school navigating AP classes, applying for scholarships, and figuring out where to go to college once they graduate.
Thanks to Allison Meadows, Sherwood High School offers much more.
Meadows teaches welding classes, and students from first-year students to seniors flock to her shop classes to learn career-technical education skills and gain hands-on experience. Some students make metal art, while others fabricate tables and racks that are needed in the school’s shop.
“They get to learn how to use all the different pieces of equipment with saws, welders,” Meadows said. “They get pretty much a picture of what the industry is going to look like if they choose to go into the job.”
When COVID-19 caused Sherwood High School to go remote, Meadows didn’t know what to do. How do you teach welding online?
Meadows and Jon Dickover, who teaches woodshop and construction at the high school, worked out a solution. If the students couldn’t practice the trades, they would bring the trades to them.
The two teachers organized Zoom meetings with professionals in plumbing, concrete, framing and drywall, estimating and accounting, project management and more, thanks to Dickover’s connections in the community. Students learned about apprenticeships and trade schools and heard from guest speakers three to four times a week.
“We could have them do research on what an electrician does and how much they get paid and all this stuff, but it doesn’t become real until someone comes and shares their story,” Meadows said. “Then all of a sudden, it’s like they could picture themselves in that job. And that makes a big difference.”
Both shop teachers give each other a lot of credit for the idea, but Dickover said Meadows did a great job spearheading it.
“And just like anything else that she does, she does it with some passion and she does it with vigor,” he said. “She’s not somebody who sits back and just watches. She gets involved with just about everything she can.”
And the students loved it, Meadows said.
“I feel like a lot of them changed their minds on whether they decided to go to a trade or not,” Meadows said. “They at least have an appreciation for the trades industries now and can see the true value of that labor and the labor shortage we have.”
One student told Meadows it was “more valuable than any other classes I’ve ever taken, in just one trimester.”
Still, it was challenging to be away from the classroom. Thankfully, Meadows is now back teaching welding and some trades in person.
Meadows, who also serves as an FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) advisor, said connecting with students is so important to her because of her own connection with a past agriculture teacher, whom she can still call if she needs help.
She even put a bean bag chair in her office to invite in students.
“I don’t know what it is (about a bean bag chair or a couch) — kids just flock to your space,” Meadows said. She thinks it makes it easier for them to open up and talk about school and about life.
But Meadows isn’t just there to support the students who share her interests.
“I’m not trying to recruit and retain all these welders. I want kids to find their home. And that’s all I want to do is figure out, ’Is this your niche? Or can we find a different place for you?’” she said. “Let’s just figure it out, because everyone’s got to find their spot where they feel special and feel valued.”