Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

March 4, 2014

Teaching welders

Carter Career teacher wins award for being one of the best

ASHLAND — We offer a somewhat belated congratulations to Derek Hazlett, a welding instructor at the Carter County Career and Technical Center, for being one of only two recipients of the 2013 Carl J. Schaefer Memorial Award that honors career and technical education teachers.

Hazlett is pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Morehead State University with an expected graduation date of 2018. He began his career immediately out of high school working for a construction company building conveyors that exited underground coal mines. It was in this position he was accepted into a boilermakers apprenticeship program and is still a standing member with Local 40.

Hazlett went on to pursue numerous welding, rigging, scaffolding and steel-erection certifications. He is involved with the American Welding Society and is a certified welding inspector.

“I have worked with new occupation-based teachers coming directly from industry to teaching for over 20 years, and Derek is the first one I have seen who truly wants to make a difference in his students’ lives,” said Dr. Joyce Stubbs, an associate professor at MSU. “He teaches in his classroom as if the students are working on a job in industry.”

While a lot of emphasis is put on earning college degrees, Hazlett pursued the career education path right after high school and is now helping a new generation of young people take the same path. While he is teaching welders, there are many other career opportunities like carpenters, mechanics, chefs, electricians and dozens of other skilled professions that do not necessarily require a four-year college degree. That’s important because there will always be a need for such skills and not everyone needs or wants a four-year college degree. College is not for everyone, nor should it be.

 When the University of Kentucky community colleges merged with the state’s vocational technical schools in the late 1990s to form the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, the vo-tech teachers were sometimes treated as less than equals by the community college teachers because many of them lacked college degrees, while those in the community college system had advanced degrees. But times have changed and one hopes that teaching one to be a skilled welder or electrician can be just as important as teaching future CPAs, chemists and teachers.

Diana Penn, a teacher in Perkasie, Pa., was the other recipient of a Schaefer award.

Much of what Hazlett knows about welding he did not learn in a classroom. He learned as a young apprentice on the job  — and he learned it well enough to teach others the same skills. The award is an indication that Hazlert is not only one the best in the state at what he does, he is one of the best in the entire country. What a tribute to him and the school where he teaches.

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