American Woodworker

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Winter 2013-2014

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School News:The New England Association of Woodworking Teachers


By Randy Johnson

In the late 1990s, Jack Grube's woodshop program at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, New Hampshire was successful—well equipped, generously funded and fully enrolled. But as a dedicated teacher, Jack wanted to make it better. So he visited other school woodshop programs in New England, to see what they had to offer. Jack discovered some great teachers and interesting programs, but each visit reinforced his awareness of a nearly universal condition: Woodshop teachers worked in relative isolation; few of the teachers Jack visited were familiar with other programs.

During the same period, Jack's involvement with the Guild of New Hampshire Woodworkers had made him aware of the benefits of networking with other woodworkers. So without much thought, he invited about a dozen woodshop teachers to meet, for the purpose of sharing projects and woodshop program ideas. Word spread and over fifty teachers and individuals interested in woodworking education attended that first meeting, which was held in November of 2001. According to Jack, “The enthusiasm at that meeting confirmed this was the right idea: Teachers were excited to be able to ‘talk shop' with other teachers.”

Today, the New England Association of Woodworking Teachers (NEAWT) represents an assortment of middle school, high school, college and adult education woodworking programs located throughout New England. The association currently includes about one hundred teachers (representing more than sixty schools and nearly 10,000 woodshop students) and fifteen industry associates. Membership is open to any individual or group interested in woodworking education.

NEAWT's primary goal is to nurture woodshop programs by sharing ideas related to curriculum, resources, professional development, student opportunities and employment opportunities. Currently, the group meets twice a year, in the spring and fall.

NEAWT members travel from shop to shop for meetings. The host organizes the agenda, gives a tour of their shop and fields questions about their program. Each meeting also includes a business meeting, open discussion and a presentation by one or more members. This format showcases the diversity of the group. Members may share a successful class project, teach a new woodworking technique or present methods they've developed to successfully market their woodshop program. Between meetings, members communicate frequently by e-mail or through online forums such as Woodcraft's Teachers Network ( Smaller groups within the association meet independently as well.

NEAWT presents annual awards for Program of the Year and Teacher of the Year. Phil Carle (at left) and Bill McKay were honored in 2006. Jack Grube, NEAWT's founder, swept both awards in 2007.



Keep It Simple
Jack designed a simple organizational structure, so one person could manage all the details. Membership requests and meeting announcements are made by e-mail, so there's no secretary. No dues are collected, so there's no treasurer. Programming is left to the host of each meeting, so there's no program coordinator.

A six-member board was established in 2003 to evaluate member suggestions relative to the association's goals and resources. Once the board approves a suggestion, its implementation is up to association members—the organization's success truly depends on their active participation.

Meetings often include hands-on instruction to help members improve their teaching skills. Following his presentation on bowl turning, Graham Oakes (at left) goes one-on-one with Steve Schultz.



A Dynamic Organization
NEAWT's mission has grown with its membership. Its annual “Teacher of the Year” and “Program of the Year” awards, presented to recognize outstanding achievements by members, are now widely publicized to communities and school districts as part of NEAWT's effort to increase public awareness of the value of all woodshop programs.

Important, difficult issues are being addressed. Bryan Conklin, current NEAWT director and Technology Education teacher at Uxbridge High School (MA), focused last fall's meeting on shop safety. The discussion centered on how NEAWT could help to establish comprehensive safe operating procedures as the cornerstone of every member's woodshop curriculum. It was decided that the association would approve, and members would employ, standardized safety instruction and tests for every woodworking machine, with perfect scores being required before students are allowed to operate each machine. How the instruction and tests are incorporated into the curriculum is left to individual teachers. For example, one teacher may tailor a project to teach safe operation of a single machine; another may introduce new machines as a project—and the student—progresses. The primary goals are to minimize shop accidents and increase the credibility of each member's curriculum with regards to safety, by incorporating peer-approved procedures.

Relationships established with industry groups provide NEAWT members with a broad range of curriculum materials and student outreach programs. Industry associate members include Woodcraft Supply, the Technology Education Association of Masssachusetts, the New England Association of Technology Teachers, the Furniture Society, the Architectural Woodwork Institute, the Temperate Forest Foundation, Partnering Industry & Education, the American Association of Woodturners, the Guild of New Hampshire Woodworkers, the Granite State Woodturners, Mount Wachusett Community College and the New England Student Woodworking Design Competition.

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