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Educator honored with WoodLINKS award

Texas cabinetmaking instructor named Educator of the Year a little more than a year after joining outreach program

Joe Davis' students Antelmo Beltran and Blake Fullenwider attended the AWFS Fresh Wood national furniture design competition in Las Vegas last summer where they won first and second place in the case goods category.

Joe Davis, a cabinetmaking instructor at Dale Jackson Career Center in Lewisville, Texas, is fighting the high school woodworking shop stigma with the success of his students and his program. WoodLINKS USA honored Davis in July with the Educator of the Year Award at the AWFS fair in Las Vegas. Davis only enrolled in the WoodLINKS program in April 2008 and says he never expected to win the award his first year.

"It's great. When I came back, the school administrators were really excited about it and so it gave me more rapport with them. Back when I was in school, woodworking was just a stereotype ... we had to fight it. This really gave our program some clout," says Davis.

Davis' core objective is to combine industry and education to build the next generation of well-trained employees, which is similar to the WoodLINKS mission as an industry-education partnership to assure the future success of careers in the woodworking industry. Davis tells his students there is a need for engineers, architects and computer designers - not just woodworkers or machine operators.

WoodLINKS USA director Mark Smith says Davis goes above and beyond the general duties of actively certifying students, marketing his program to create industry partnerships, and producing an annual newsletter.

"He has students working in industry and doing internships and has industry come in and meet with his students and also with their parents. His class is engaged in completing projects for the school district, as well as helping individuals outside the school district who need help," says Smith.

Davis began teaching at the career center in 1995 and says his program has always had an average enrollment of 100 students per year. The number can't increase because his classes are full, as five area high schools bus their students in for the three-hour daily sessions. So Davis turned to WoodLINKS to get help enhancing the quality of his program with a modern curriculum and industry help.

"For the past eight years, I've been trying to show the parents and administrators, and people in general, the importance of woodworking. Schools keep shutting all of these programs down. Everyone wants their kid to go to college - which I think they should - but they're missing out on a craft that can be very lucrative if they just get the skills," says Davis.

Davis says his school district sufficiently backs his program to keep it running and did so before joining WoodLINKS. But the industry support he receives from WoodLINKS shows the administrators that allotting funds towards the school's woodworking program is worthwhile.

To instill a sense of accomplishment, Davis encourages all students to enter local, state and national woodworking competitions, such as Skills U.S.A. and the AWFS Fresh Wood student design competition. At the local level, his students build trophies for the annual cross country invitational meet at Lewisville High School. He gives tours to middle school students and others in the community who want to learn about the program. He also helps individuals who need assistance, such as Boy Scout members who are building a Pinewood Derby car and don't have a shop at home.

Davis' students have a stellar track record of going to college or getting jobs out of high school, he says. One student recently received a $40,000 scholarship to Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan.

Davis' current plan is to take the program to the next level by incorporating advanced technology such as CNC machining. He has caught teachers' interest from the regional high schools that teach AutoCAD programs. Davis wants to integrate those students' drawings with physical production experience on a machine.

As for the local job outlook, Davis says there is an ample amount of woodworking industry opportunities in Dallas, mainly in the commercial sector.

Davis received his bachelor's degree in industrial technology at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, and his master's in education at the University of North Texas in Denton. He says with humor that finding something in high school that he enjoyed influenced his decision to go to college.

"I don't think I would have made it through high school if it wasn't for woodshop and football. If I had just had to do academics all day ... my parents were surprised I told them I was going to college. That's what I tell my students."

Contact: Dale Jackson Career Center, 1597 S. Edmonds, Lewisville, TX 75067.

This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue.

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