“The most rewarding thing for me is celebrating students’ successes. To see the joy when they finally master the skill is one of my favorite things about this job.”
Blair Jensen has taught welding at Jordan Academy for Technology & Careers for the past four years. Jensen has many fond childhood memories of being on the job with his family learning various trades and working on local farms. These formative experiences set him up for success when he switched majors in college from computer engineering to agriculture education with a focus in agriculture systems and technology. As part of a senior year project, Jensen signed up to TA welding courses and took night classes to gain as many certifications as he could. He continuously improves his teaching by attending professional development conferences hosted by a local ACTE association, and was recognized this past year as Teacher of the Year by the Jordan Education Foundation. Jensen has also been named president elect for the Skilled and Technical Division of the Utah Association for Career and Technical Education, where he will serve on a committee for three years to help facilitate conferences and create meaningful sessions for all attendees to improve their craft.
Jensen fosters a learning culture in his class focused on skills that will help his students become model employees. To do this, he has effectively modeled his program after an active shop. Students earn their participation grades based on active timecards, clocking in and out each day. Jensen also schedules them for a task each week, which has an associated hourly wage. More demanding tasks, like leadership positions, come with higher pay. These wages are used to pay ‘shop rent’ for their participation grade. This structure provides a solid foundation as students work from tool safety lessons to active assignments, like Jensen’s annual holiday prototyping competition. Kids in the program research, design and craft their own Christmas décor to be sold as a SkillsUSA fundraiser every fall. As the lead SkillsUSA advisor for his chapter, Jensen takes pride in his students’ successes in these competitions — just this last year, each of the seven trades programs at Jordan Academy had at least one student earn a gold medal at state level. Two of those seven placed in the top nine of their respective national competitions, as well, with one of the two earning a national title.
To ensure his students leave the program with a well-rounded set of skills, Jensen balances the classroom culture and curriculum with a variety of outside perspectives. Each Friday features an industry partner guest speaker, showcasing daily work at their company, open positions, discussion of wages, and more before the floor is opened to students to ask questions. Visits to local shops also give students insight into what type of careers they might pursue. Since the program is registered with the American Welding Society as a SENSE Level 1 school, students can graduate with entry-level welding certifications, giving them a leg up if they choose to enter the industry. Jensen likes to keep up with his graduates, checking in each year on their careers and accomplishments. Just this past year, over half of students who responded to his outreach confirmed they are working in the welding industry, many of them for partners that were introduced in his very classroom.
Jensen previously was a finalist for the 2019 and the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.
“While predominantly welding, several of my industry partners are in allied trades to welding or are major manufacturers in our area. I also invite instructors from the two neighboring community colleges, military recruiters, and local apprenticeship program directors to present on their education and career opportunities.”