Technical Education Teachers Deserve Recognition
Here’s a tribute to technical education instructors who have dedicated their lives to do the quiet work of preparing students for careers.
Most of my time in the last four years has been dedicated to my mission to secure the American dream for the next generation of industrial talent. Industry is still that place where one can start out sweeping the floor, and end up running the company, or stop anywhere on the journey and have a noble, family-supporting, rewarding career. That doesn’t happen in most fields, but it does every day in manufacturing.
This American dream, however, is at risk. We no longer do an adequate job of inspiring young people toward careers in advanced manufacturing. Far too few students are exposed to opportunities in manufacturing while in middle school and high school. Along with many others, I am working to change this.
On this journey, I have met many great people in the worlds of education and manufacturing. Perhaps most interesting among them are our nation’s technical education teachers who, every day, do the quiet work of preparing their students for our careers. I authored the following as a tribute, and as a way of saying thank you:
Humanity has an innate need to build, to create, to produce. Look at the world’s roads and bridges, appliances and automobiles, homes and skyscrapers, from villages to nations, communities to empires.
But none of this happens without the people who know how to — and are able and willing to — do the hard work of building, creating and producing. For this reason, the world created the tech ed teacher.
The world needed someone with the patience of a saint, the craftsmanship of an artisan, and more bandwidth than one can measure, a jack of all trades and master of many. From woods to autos, welders to the tools of construction, CNC machines to industrial robots, electrical circuits to mechatronics, energy, power, design, agriculture, the world expects him to know it all.
The tech ed teacher doesn’t teach math, physics, communications, science or economics. She teaches all of them — at the same time. Perhaps no other person, in any role, in any career, is expected to know so much about so much.
It matters not from where their students come, but to where they are going. Challenging their high-flyers and dragging the weak and the wounded, from honor students to those barely scraping by, the tech ed teacher takes all comers and makes a place for every single one.
In doing so she plants seeds of curiosity and lights sparks of interest that will grow and glow in them. She uncovers abilities they didn’t know they had and spawns life-changing, self-confidence in even the greatest of self-doubters. Mentor, coach, advisor, role model and friend to any and all who walk in the door.
The world’s welders and plant managers, electrical engineers and maintenance technicians, auto mechanics and researchers, HVAC techs and rocket scientists, how many of them would not have found their calling if not for the fire of fascination ignited by their tech ed teacher?
It’s not about the money. It’s never been about the money. Perhaps able to command far more treasure in a career outside the school than on the inside, the tech ed teacher stays true to her students, perhaps even sacrificing time with her own children to make sure someone else’s stays on the right path.
Employers may change, and with them the careers for which the tech ed teacher prepares his students. Technology may change, and with it the skills he teaches. Administrations may change, and with them their strategies and goals, but through it all what will never change is the tech ed teacher’s unwavering commitment to his students and his community even in, especially in, the lean years of shoestring budgets and cost reductions.
Long after retirement is an option, many, if not most, will hang on, because it’s not about them, it’s about their communities. It’s about their students.
But when, at last, the years and life catch up, when he tires more easily than he would like and earlier in the day than he once did, when the time comes to sweep the shop, to pensively flip the light switch and to lock the door behind him one last time before shuffling down the quiet hallway and into the twilight of his life, he does so leaving behind a body of work that will span generations.
Mechanics and their machines, carpenters and their buildings, engineers and their systems, machinists and their creations, industrial CEOs, technicians, innovators, problem solvers and troubleshooters — humanity — all owe so very much to the tech ed teacher.
The world created the tech ed teacher, and the tech ed teacher built the world.