“I especially appreciate seeing the look of accomplishment when a shop skill finally clicks. Students often tell me that a weld, cut, or part is “finished and good enough.” But after further discussion, they realize that it can be improved or even remade. ‘If we have time to do a job, we have time to do it right,’ is always reinforced in my classroom and I love that they learn from this lesson, build on their skills, and try to improve on all their future projects.’’
Growing up in a neighborhood where many people worked as carpenters, welders and mechanics provided Andrew Saweikis with an early start in learning the skilled trades.
“In high school, I was in a welding program just like I teach today,” Saweikis said. “I was immediately taken with welding class and I was soon helping my peers learn the basics in the classroom. I was also working full-time in a structural steel shop after school.”
After graduation, he continued his education at community college earning an A.S. in Business Administration. He graduated from Cornell University, where he studied Applied Economics and Management. Graduating in 2009 during a slow economy, he was able to use his welding education to find a job.
“I became certified and trained new employees where I truly found joy in teaching people welding skills,” he said. “Eventually, I was offered a position to start a welding program… and have been teaching high school welding now for 6 years and love coming to work every day with the opportunity to change the lives of the future welders of the world.”
Today, Saweikis teaches welding at Rockland Board of Cooperative Educational Services Career and Technical Education Center (Rockland BOCES-CTEC) in West Nyack, New York.
Last year, his students won both a local welding trade show and the national “Rulers of the Flame” competition, receiving $8,000 in equipment for their shop. Many of Saweikis’s students pursue welding after graduation, with an average of 20 percent continuing their welding education and 30 percent going directly into the welding or construction industry.
This year, the class turned problems students were having at work or in business into lessons for the whole class. One example was of a junior student trying to negotiate a raise at his welding job. The class discussed his options and the viewpoint of the worker and the boss, and how to negotiate if needed. This practice resulted in him meeting with the boss and getting the raise he desired.
The class is now developing a project with a local historical museum education project where they will fabricate a machine from 1852.
“In welding, there is no perfect weld, but welders with a passion for the craft strive to make every weld better than their last. Seeing the students adapt this to themselves and their work ethic is something I take pride in as a teacher and makes it easy to love my job that much more.”