Teaching ag teachers to weld

Published 10:25 am Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer is the time of year that some teachers use to learn new things that they can then teach their students.

Kim Meyer is an agriculture teacher at Albert Lea High School and is on a committee that applied for a grant through the Minnesota Department of Education. The committee received the grant, and Meyer was able to volunteer to teach a workshop for other teachers using the money from the grant.

The reason the committee applied for the grant was that many agriculture teachers in Minnesota are being asked to teach industrial technology classes even though they don’t have much experience with it.

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“They’re making cuts in rural areas and they want ag teachers doing industrial tech to keep the FFA programs,” Meyer said.

Meyer said welding is a popular course at schools in Minnesota, and it’s an important skill for some to learn. He hosted a three-day, 20-hour workshop this week to help teachers from southern Minnesota become comfortable with welding so they can teach it to their students.

“I couldn’t imagine going into the class without knowing how to weld,” Meyer said. “There are safety issues so they have to know what they’re doing.”

Meyer is glad that agriculture teachers are being taught more skills so that FFA programs can survive in rural areas. He spoke highly of the leadership skills students learn in that program, and he was excited to be able to help teachers expand their qualifications so they can teach more than one subject.

The $1,000 grant was from the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council and helped pay for the equipment and labor costs for the workshop. The council gives grants for things that help agricultural educators. Meyer said it was much different having teachers for students instead of the teenagers he’s used to.

“They ask more questions because they have more experience,” Meyer said. “Teachers don’t like down time — they want skill development time.”

He said that with the safety issues it’s important the teachers feel comfortable and confident before they can try to teach students how to weld.

“Welding is a skill, and it takes time to learn,” Meyer said. “In our community it’s used a lot.”

He hopes welding classes don’t get cut because they teach a valuable skill to students.

The teachers utilizing the workshop were from various areas in southern Minnesota like Worthington, Fillmore and Pipestone, and they were able to use the hours toward renewing their licenses. One local teacher, Angie James from Glenville-Emmons, was at the workshop.

“We’re working on the basics,” James said. “I’m afraid of it, so I’m trying not to be.”

She said they were welding scrap pieces of metal together just to practice the different types of welding and to become more comfortable with it. James mentioned that as an agricultural teaching student in college there were too many things to learn to become an expert in all of them.

“As an ag teacher you learn so many different things but you don’t really get in-depth,” James said. “It’s a good opportunity to learn more to pass on to the kids.”

Meyer said he has helped with workshops like these before and will continue to do so because he finds it rewarding.

“I love teaching,” Meyer said. “It’s really satisfying when you’re helping your colleagues.”