“I have learned that students will rise to your level of expectation. Even the most tedious jobs will be accomplished with a high level of perfection if you, as the leader and teacher, match the level of enthusiasm needed to motivate students. I have also learned that the most important tool as an educator is not the equipment in your tool room, but the rapport you build with the students in your program.”

Brian Welch teaches agricultural mechanics at Madisonville North Hopkins High School, where his students learn carpentry, welding, small engine repair, electrical and masonry. By the time students complete his program, they will have rebuilt engines, built mock residential structures, and learned how to successfully weld.

Welch’s passion for the trades was sparked when he inherited a set of tools from a beloved grandfather, and after honing his skills, he merged that passion with a life-long desire to teach.

Welch helped the Kentucky Department of Education redefine state standards for agricultural mechanics, and designed a new course that combines junior-level math curriculum with hands-on learning. This course meets 24 common core math standards while teaching students residential construction. Welch is working to qualify the course for certification with local businesses. He leads state-level workshops and provides sample curriculum to other educators throughout Kentucky. Welch recently received national recognition from the National Association of Agricultural Educators Ideas Unlimited competition. He helped create innovative lessons that can be utilized by teachers across the country.

Troubled by the significant disparity in enrollment in trades classes by gender, Welch worked to bring in more female students into his agricultural mechanics courses by establishing all-female classes. He brought in 32 more female students in the first year alone.

“What started as a group of intimidated students quickly evolved to be one of my best classes,” said Welch. To give his Construction Skills students a chance to showcase their skills, he set up a “Battle of the Sexes”-style competition, where both the all-male and all-female classes were tasked with designing and building a bedroom suite of furniture including a bed, dresser, and nightstand. Each set was displayed in the school lobby for voting, and after the completion was complete, both were donated to a local family in need. “Not only did this help showcase my classes’ hard work to the school and community, but it also helped my students see the impact of their efforts.”

Much of the coursework focuses on service to the community. His students have built sheds for Habitat for Humanity, desks and COVID shields for the local elementary school, and “blessing boxes” for the local food pantry.

Welch has been named a Hopkins County Teacher of the Year and Kentucky’s New CTE Teacher of the Year.

“One of my mentors in 4-H says that a day you have not learned something new is a day wasted. What I love about teaching skilled trades is that no matter if you’re doing something for the 1st or 100th time, there is rarely a day wasted.”