Jerry Richardson teaches his students a lot about learning and a lot about life. In his technology education class students learn business practices, welding, design, woodworking, computer programming and drawing among many other things.
Richardson, teaching for 38 years, has transformed his classroom into a 21st century learning environment that’s extremely popular — more than one-third of the students at Cottonwood School District’s Prairie High take his elective class, and many of these students go on to pursue successful careers in related fields.
When Richardson opened his wood shop in 1977, the environment was much different. Today, cabinet making requires learning fundamentals of technology as well as construction, manufacturing and solid works drafting.
Students also are learning how to run a business. “Mr. Richardson has taught me a lot about building projects and to work efficiently,” said student Casey Danly.
Students are making items that are then sold in local stores and the profit is used to fund expenses or fieldtrips. They have made enough money to pay for hotel rooms and registration fees for the Technology Student Association Conference each year. As a part of this conference there is a competition in which student teams create prototypes of original designs. Cottonwood’s team has earned first place in the last two years.
The equipment used in Richardson’s classroom is sophisticated. Some of the equipment has been donated, while other pieces were acquired by grants. A donated computer program assists students as they sharpen and gauge their own drill bits. Another program allows students to create 3D images that are brought to life with students’ creative designs, tools and wood. They make jewelry boxes, toys for pre-schools, plaques and coasters, just to name a few.
In addition to all they are learning in design, woodworking and other areas, students are learning about the importance of compassion too. When members of the community gave the students names of soldiers being sent to Iraq, the students designed, engraved and personalized wooden boxes to hold playing cards for each local soldier.
When asked what he has learned from Mr. Richardson, Prairie High School student Luke Enneking said, “I have gained countless life skills and opportunities for my future.”
The top left photo shows Jerry Richardson while the other two photos show students making a sign for Prairie Jr./Sr. High School.