Robert Studdard, a wood manufacturing design instructor at Rolla Technical Institute in Rolla, Mo., was selected as Educator of the Year by WoodLINKS U.S.A. The annual award goes to a high school shop instructor who has surpassed what peer industry leaders expect in today's classroom.
Studdard is in his 15th year at the school, which specializes in industrial education and is run in conjunction with the local public school system. Previously, he operated a small shop.
Mark Smith, national director of WoodLINKS U.S.A., praised Studdard for revising the school's curriculum and updating its equipments. That includes incorporating the WoodLINKS curriculum, which has increased vocational opportunities for students since 2005.
Studdard has benefited from WoodLINKS funding to take students to the IWF and AWFS industry shows. "We've made contacts that have helped improve our program," he says. "We've also received donations of supplies and discounts on machinery from companies that support WoodLINKS. They have allowed us to update our shop."
The update began several years ago as Stoddard brought in SawStop table saws, edgebanders, sliding table saws and a Unique door machine. He's in the process of obtaining a CNC router. The equipment is state-of-the-art and has had a great effect on training skilled woodworkers for today's job market.
Studdard's teaching mantra is that it's best to focus on a student's individual talents, rather than treat everyone the same.
"I understand that not all students can learn the same way - no two students are the same. My goal is to take individual students as far as I can take them or as far as they're willing to go."
Studdard has an active advisory board comprised of woodworking industry leaders. He says these connections have been invaluable. Rolla principal Floyd Baker says Studdard is a leader in innovation and among his peers and that he sets a high standard for student performance.
"His students dominate state woodworking skills contests winning over 25 Technology Education Association of Missouri state championships and producing 55 Central District Technology Education Association of Missouri district winners and 12 SkillsUSA state level winners," says Baker.
Studdard was also named the Missouri Trade and Technical Association Teacher of the Year in 2000.
This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue.