“As I embrace the evolution in program assignment across levels, vocational (now ‘CTE’) and math content areas, I instill in my students the lessons I learned as a student and starting professional. Keep an open mind. Observe and play to your strengths. Show humility and curiosity toward others. Be creative and collaborative to solve problems. Take pride in your work and enjoy the process.”
Bill Culver has taught construction trades in the Evergreen Public Schools district for the past 40 years, the last 22 of which have been at Evergreen High School. After initially pursuing a degree in engineering at Washington State University, Culver pivoted to the WSU College of Education and Industrial Arts to pursue his true passions – working with his hands and finding satisfaction in solving problems by building. He was hired to teach woodworking and metals in a local middle school directly out of college. Feeling isolated from other shop teachers and his peers in the building, he visited schools all along the west coast to research exemplary industrial arts programs and adapt elements of their instructional models to build his own. This process kickstarted a still-present pursuit of partnership and continuous self-improvement.
Culver has looked to the local community’s needs to adapt his program and curriculum over the years. Toward the beginning of his career, many students were raised rurally, introduced and trained on the use of tools and equipment at home. As population has increased and fewer students grow up in a rural environment, Culver strives to instill fundamentals of mechanical concepts while availing students of modern technologies and techniques as they evolve. One way he has done this is by implementing a Geometry in Construction course to combine the trades with a core math credit. The class incorporates design, modeling, testing, construction and self-reflection, empowering students to transfer their learning from cerebral to practical. Culver also fashions his shop after a high-functioning working community, merging hands-on problem-solving techniques with debrief discussions and professional best practices. Students start the year with tool safety lessons before progressing to floor plan drafting, scale model building, and construction of 8’ x 8’ training modules that incorporate plumbing, electrical, and HVAC elements. These all prepare students for the culminating project: a fully built tiny house that will be home to a local family in need. Throughout the year, Culver’s students also compete in SkillsUSA competitions, visit local builder job sites, and learn from industry guest speakers, the Northwest College of Construction and the Women in Trades organization.
At the end of each school year, an internal report is compiled based on individual student feedback from the Geometry in Construction course. Student satisfaction from those participating in the course consistently scores higher than 85 percent, and the pre-pandemic survey showed 81 percent of students either considering or strongly considering a future in the construction trades. More than stats, though, Culver takes pride in seeing how his program brings together students who otherwise wouldn’t have connected in high school, building networks of support and confidence just as well as they can build a tiny house.
“For some, trades will be a career path. For all, it provides an approach to work that fosters creativity, adaptability, and the capacity to apply core principles to engineer solutions. This serves them across evolving careers regardless of workplace and practical DIY skills to apply as adults or property owners.”