How do you measure the worth of an education, as well as those who are responsible for guiding you along the way? The answer is simple: You can't. As the old saying goes, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
PWTeacher of the Year was created to serve as a platform to honor the people who have led, mentored, disciplined, challenged, and inspired you to learn how to fish—with a torch and a rod, that is. It is not in any way intended to directly compare and contrast who is better, because that would be impossible. Every teacher has his or her own unique challenges in the classroom, and we celebrate those who willingly take on those obstacles with their students' best interests at heart.
While we have space for only one feature about one teacher, in reality everyone nominated has clearly made an indelible mark upon the individual who did the nominating, which is priceless.
Some were nominated by family members, like Cliff Parrett from Oklahoma City who was nominated by his wife, Anne, who knows all too well the amount of time and effort he devotes to reaching his students.
"Many of these students have issues with family, friends, employment, income, and even mere survival. The condition in which some of them have lived is not only alarming, it's appalling. Yet these students develop skills which enable them to find respectable employment without a college education," she wrote.
Some were nominated by industry colleagues, like John Smelko of Jefferson County-DuBois AVTS in Reynoldsville, Pa., who was nominated by Gary Kahle, an account manager for a gas distributor.
"John has been at Jeff Tech for over 10 years and has produced not just a group of outstanding graduates, but outstanding citizens as well. He is a true educator. He creates an atmosphere of creativity that requires students to think outside the box," Kahle wrote.
Others were nominated by former students like Phil Suderman, who nominated Dewayne Roy, his former weld instructor at Mountain View College, Dallas.
"I have been pushed, prodded, helped, and inspired by one of the great ones. His way of relating and teaching, often through stories, constantly had me eagerly listening to his lectures and demonstrations, even when he happened to be talking about a different welding process than what I was studying."
I think you'll find the inaugural winner, Jaime Shaker, to be a worthy recipient and a stellar advocate for the welding industry. And from the looks of it—at least what I can gather from the heartfelt letters that I received—there are many others like him who are acting as beacons to those reaching out for their guidance.
We'd like to thank everyone who took the time to nominate someone who is working hard to ensure that the industry made great by our grandfathers is left in the possession of skilled hands, and we look forward to embarking on this journey again next year.