The job of a high school shop teacher has changed quite a bit in 35 years.
Kim Wellington, 60, started out as a shop teacher in Tigard, Ore. It was a natural career because his father was a shop teacher in Kellogg, Idaho.
He’ll retire at the end of the school year.
“Every year my job changes,” he said. Falling under the umbrella of career and technical education, Wellington now teaches graphic design, robotics technology, manufacturing power technology and Web design.
Wellington came to Central Valley High School nine years ago. Hired as a part-time construction teacher, he noticed the school’s welding room wasn’t being used. He helped turn it into a room for students to build their own robots, bringing the FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – Robotics program to the school.
This year, the team didn’t do well in competition, but he said it was “one of the best robots we’ve ever made.” It flings Frisbees in a perfect arc. It can turn on a dime and even move diagonally.
When he began his career, projects such as wooden cars were all designed with pencil and paper. It generally took three weeks to go through the process of teaching students how to do it. Now, on the first day of school, students sit down at the computer and learn how to design a project.
“There wasn’t a computer,” he said of his early years. “Everything was done on paper.”
Wellington didn’t always teach. After 12 years in Tigard teaching middle school, he moved on to the Oregon Department of Education as a state specialist of technical education. He then found a job teaching high school in Vancouver, Wash., and later went back to administration as the CTE director of the district.
He said moving back and forth between teaching and administration gave him a unique perspective. While as a teacher, he said his job was about giving the students what they need. As an administrator, he was there to support the teachers.
Back in the classroom, he said he had to constantly learn new technology to teach his students. When computer-aided drafting became the norm in industry, he had to learn it.
“Teachers have had to keep up with that,” he said.
Before arriving at CV, he worked in a school district that sent teachers out into the business world to learn the new technology for an eight-week internship. He remembers one at Intel at a time before email. The company was working on a chip for Microsoft’s Windows.
He said the skills students learn in his classes are good for students who aren’t looking for a four-year college degree. They learn skills they can use immediately after high school.
“Welders make good money,” he said. Once a former student approached him and said, “If you hadn’t shown me how to weld, I wouldn’t be working right now.”
Wellington plays the keyboard in his free time. He used to be in a band, and has plans for his music after he retires.
“I’m going to write down my music before I die,” he said. He has a recording studio and said he would like to help other musicians with copyrighting their music.
He’ll also spend time with his wife, Charlene Koth-Wellington, and his children and grandchildren.
“It’s been rewarding,” he said of his career. “I’ve sure enjoyed working here.”