You will need Adobe Flash Player to view this page properly.
Return to Headlines
CTE in Action: THS Trades Academy
Meet the Teacher: Greg Proden, THS CTE Instructor
What classes do you currently teach at Thurston?
I teach drafting and welding and support students who participate in the county Trades Academy and who wish to participate in SkillsUSA.
Have you always liked to work with your hands?
Yes. I grew up on a farm. My dad could fix anything, and I helped him a lot, fixing up homes, etc. I learned through a lot of observation and hands-on learning.
Did you yourself take shop classes in high school?
I graduated from Thurston High in 1978. I did take a number of shop classes. At that time, there were seven shop teachers over just three grades, including a jewelry arts program, ag, and automotive.
What made you decide to go into teaching?
My high school industrial arts teachers at Thurston were a big influence on my decision. After taking some classes at Lane, they encouraged to go on to get an industrial arts degree at Eastern Washington University. I went on to teach drafting and wood shop at Crow High School for 13 years before coming to Springfield.
What is the process for becoming a CTE teacher?
They don't offer industrial arts degrees anymore. Most CTE teachers come from industry now are hired through an instructor appraisal process, requiring a certain number of hours in the field (usually 4000 or more).
What's happening with CTE in Springfield?
Springfield held on to classes better than most districts. Our district administration has always been supportive, and we've managed to persevere. It's been neat to see. And with the recent bond funds, we've been able to add new equipment and get more high tech. In my drafting classes, each student now has a computer equipped with the latest AutoCad software. The students are loving the 3D printer and our brand-new 3D scanner. There's a laser printer and CNC router in the wood shop, a plasma cam and metal lathes in the metals shop. Pretty exciting!
Why are CTE classes so important?
I believe in different career pathways - not everybody is college bound. This is a great opportunity for kids to get skills they can take right to the workplace, and earn a very good wage. Many of our students participate, and do well in, the statewide SkillsUSA contests each spring.
What's in your future?
I am still enjoying what I do - helping students prepare for a high-wage, high-demand career beyond high school. I could probably retire soon, but I want to make sure there's someone to take my place.
About the Trades Academy
Thurston High was the first high school in the county to participate in the Lane County Trades Academy, a partnership among area high schools, Lane ESD and three local trade unions.
Proden says he heard about the program at an OACTE conference about 8 years ago, presented as an idea by someone in the Bureau of Labor and Industry. He believes Thurston was the second high school in the state to participate. The program allows students to apply for a series of workshops offering valuable hands-on training by local professionals. Students are required to submit an application, an essay, transcripts and letters of recommendations and also go through an interview process.
Out of a total of 30 students admitted this quarter, six are from Thurston High: 2 in electrical classes hosted at Thurston High, 3 in plumbing and pipefitting at Springfield's UA 290 Plumbers and Pipefitters HVAC Training Center, and 1 in sheet metal at the Sheet Metal Institute in Springfield. Several Springfield High students are also attending.
"The Trades Academy program provides relevant, hands-on classes that prepare students for the trades, specifically in electrical, sheet metal and plumbing/pipefitting. These are high-wage, high-demand career opportunities," says Proden. "The program allows the students to learn more about these careers and decide whether or not they want to pursue them after high school."
The 9-week classes are being offered in the second semester this year. Students attend class two days a week for grades and elective credit. The electrical classes are being taught by Bob Salle, a retired electrician with more than 40 years of experience who provides continuing education classes for the union.
Students are learning electron theory; drawing and building circuitry; photovoltaic display; low voltage class termination; conduit bending; and fiber. Students also learn valuable safety lessons along the way.
The program has been seeing some success. Proden reports that recent grads have gone on to the formal electrical and plumbing apprenticeship programs, and a few have gone right into HVAC and sheet metal firms.
Meet the Student: Taran Wood, THS Senior
How long have you been taking CTE classes at Thurston?
As soon as I got into high school, I started taking classes - drafting, machine tech, wood. I was in competitive robotics last year.
What kind of career do you have in mind?
My strong suits are math and science. I always wanted to be an engineer, and it seemed like a good idea to start by working with your hands to see how things work. I also enjoy drafting because you need to visualize things before you build them.
Have you refined your career goals since taking these classes?
Yes, now I know I want to work in renewable energy, solar panels. I want to make a difference in the world. We certainly are not getting more oil.
Do you have a college picked out?
Yes, I'll be going to Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT).
You get college credits from the shop classes, right?
Yes, they are all College Now classes. Students who want to attend a school like Lane Community College could apply them.
Talk about the Trades Academy.
It's a great opportunity to get your hands on circuits to really see how they work, how everything connects. It's also great to be able to work with electricity in a safe environment. It means a lot to me to be learning from someone like Bob who has worked in so many positions and has so much experience.
What advice do you have for other students who might be thinking about taking shop classes?
Do it, it's a great way to try things out to see what you might like to do. It's all free in high school, and it's safe and cheap to do it this way.