“Being a skilled trades teacher is an incredibly fulfilling profession with many things that I love about it. What brings me the most satisfaction is the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with young people by building strong relationships that help them develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their lives. Working collaboratively with students I have the ability to problem-solve, strategize, and model effective communication in ways that stay with students.”
Alexander Adkisson teaches manufacturing and construction at Green Mountain High School in Lakewood, Colorado. He is driven by a love of teaching students about career-connected learning that dissolves the traditional division between core academics and the skilled trades, Adkisson developed the “AMPED on Algebra” curriculum, which combines core academics with trade and industrial education in the manufacturing career pathway, and co-leads the Geometry in Construction program. Growing up, Adkisson helped his father in his work as an electrician. After a rocky start in high school, he took a class that combined math with skilled trades, which changed everything for him. With newfound confidence, he earned a degree in Engineering Sciences with a concentration in Engineering Education from Colorado State University and was inspired to pursue a teaching career.
Adkisson leads training sessions across the country and has helped over 275 schools start and sustain the AMPED on Algebra curriculum. In AMPED, students learn Algebra 1 and manage a real business that provides the students connections to business and marketing pathways. He describes it as “controlled chaos at its best” with the learning being focused on the practical, real-world applications of math. Whether it’s building a house with Habitat for Humanity or running a business, Adkisson emphasizes collaboration, communication, and teamwork. The AMPED program’s dynamic, project-based learning has shown increases to students’ math scores on standardized tests each year.
Whether working with his students or industry partners, Adkisson is a model of collaboration and innovative teaching methods. He reaches Gen Z students through strategies like gamification, project-based learning, collaborative learning, and incorporating technology into his classroom. His students complete attitudinal surveys at the beginning and end of the school year to identify areas for improvement in his pedagogy, and results show his class increased positive perceptions of math, careers in the trades, and the value of hard work. He uses digital resources to open students’ minds to the realities of how academic and career choices impact their life and long-term financial well-being. To ensure that his students are learning the most relevant skills, he invites industry professionals to speak, provide job shadowing opportunities, and arrange field trips to local businesses. He also hosts advisory boards for both construction and manufacturing businesses, which are composed of industry professionals and community members who work together to improve curriculum.
When guiding his students to use tools safely and effectively, Adkisson provides “just-in-time” training so that students receive the information exactly when they need it and can apply it in order to increase engagement and retention. Students then receive a sticker of the tool to add to their hardhats as a badge of honor and easy tracking system for him. He utilizes employability cards which provide students with specific tasks or skills they need to complete in a class period and students must hold their groups accountable for demonstrating those skills. Additionally, he allows his students to problem-solve and persevere on their own as much as possible to help them develop critical-thinking skills.
Adkisson is committed to continually improving his instructional practice to ensure that his students are receiving the best education. He is working towards a master’s degree in Real Estate and the Built Environment from the University of Denver, so that he can write curricula for construction management courses at the high school level. Since 2015, he has presented at ACTE Career Tech VISION conference. He leads his school’s SkillsUSA chapter and has recently had a student become their state secretary.
“I love how teaching courses like AMPED on Algebra and Geometry in Construction takes a subject like math that is typically challenging and abstract for students and, through the power of CTE, transforms it into a more tangible and relatable experience. For example, as a CTE teacher, you must teach the importance of attention to detail. In the trades, even small mistakes can have serious consequences, so it is essential to develop a mindset of precision and accuracy. I emphasize this in all aspects of my teaching, and it is amazing to see how the students’ math skills also improve when they understand the importance of attention to detail!”