“Students today spend too much energy memorizing to prepare for a test. Being a trades teacher helps break them out of that routine by forcing them to have a real understanding of processes in order to have success. I love the struggle that my students experience when learning electrical control because when they arrive at the solution it makes it so much sweeter.”

Dallas Bergstrom teaches manufacturing at Arthur Miller Career & Technology Center in Katy, Texas. He grew up on a small midwestern farm, where he learned the meaning of a strong work ethic by spending his summer in residential construction, but did not know what he wanted for his future. He was the first in his family to attend a university, but it wasn’t until his junior year of college when he finally enrolled in construction, metallurgy/machining, and drafting classes that sparked his interest and provided him the path to become a skilled trades teacher. He spent 14 years at McMeans Junior High School and won Teacher of the Year in 2015. In 2017, he started the manufacturing program at Miller Career & Technology Center, as well as the school’s SkillsUSA and National Technical Honor Society chapters, and was named Teacher of the Year in 2018.

Bergstrom has created a student-driven learning environment that allows students to take ownership of their learning. Students take the time to learn the various nuances between hand tools through Bergstrom’s curriculum which includes simulated labs where students must practice and figure out the right tool for the manufacturing job. HIs students balance this hands-on application with CNC machining, 3D CAD designing or lessons on electrical control. Collaboration is at the forefront; guided by a team leader and in groups of four, students rotate through different core areas such as hydraulics, pneumatics, mechanical fabrication. Even his shyest students end up seeking someone to work through a problem. By building relationships and foundational skills, he prepares students for going straight into the workforce, a trade school, or college engineering program.

Bergstrom is heavily involved in pursuing external opportunities for his students, especially through SkillsUSA. Since starting a manufacturing chapter, their enrollment has seen an increase from 30 to 275 members (a 783% increase!) In 2023, his chapter took 104 students to the state competition, won Gold in the Chapter of Excellence category, and was selected as top nine nationally. Bergstrom also has facilitated/participated in numerous STEM camps and field trips – even to Japan – for his students. He has invited local business and industry leaders to guest speak on manufacturing and professional skills and what it takes to be hired. Together, they practice multiple rounds of mock interviews and a capstone mock interview day with actual internship and job placement potential. His students annually participate in Manufacturing Day, a national event showcasing the manufacturing industry, and take field trips to local manufacturers.

Bergstrom bridges social media platforms with industry relevant platforms in LinkedIn and connects them with industry partners and networks because he understands that Gen Z students value personalization and frequent social media. His students practice writing in a learning log daily where they reflect on their daily objectives and lessons. Using his experience, industry connections, and deep understanding of his students’ strengths, he focuses on connecting them to their future path. As he discovers where his students excel, he identifies and makes connections with business and industry partners to facilitate internships and work-based learning opportunities that change the trajectory of students’ academic careers and lives.

Bergstrom previously was a finalist for the 2021 and 2022 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“I love that being a skilled trades teacher allows me to ignite a passion for learning. I want my students to have the same experience I had my junior year of college when I realized (1.) “hey I’m good at this” and (2.) “I want more”. I motivate my students to want to learn by showing how the skills we practice in class create a higher level of comprehension that relate to problems in the real world.”