“What I love the most about being a skilled trades teacher is that it is the most patriotic thing I can possibly do with my life at this time. Our country needs manufacturing in order to survive and thrive…. I love the fact that I can help students gain the skills necessary to enter into the manufacturing field and make more than just a good living wage; they also make a difference.”

David Gibson’s manufacturing career began in his high school machine shop class, which he followed up with a four-year apprenticeship in tool and die making. A veteran of several industries—aircraft, oil field, maintenance—Gibson went on to earn an engineering degree and operate his own manufacturing company. When he transitioned to teaching in 2013, he found it more challenging than it had been to train tradespeople in industry. He credits a colleague for teaching him the importance of connecting with students.

“That relationship between the student and teacher is the foundation of learning,” Gibson wrote in his prizewinning application. “Learning does not happen without it.”

In his classroom, Gibson encourages his students to learn independently, through problem solving, whether that means reaching for a reference guide or conducting experiments to learn about the physical properties of various materials. Students learn from experts in local industry, like Bell Helicopters, run their own recruitment program at the local middle school and pursue college credits. Students that graduate both the high school and college program start their careers earning an average of $19 per hour, which, as Gibson wrote, “is great money in a city where the average house cost is $136,843.” Nine in 10 of Gibson’s students pursue further education after high school, whether two- or four-year college or apprenticeships and certifications, and many are employed in a variety of fields, from wind turbine technician to diesel mechanic.

Gibson also pursues his own continued learning, averaging double the professional development hours required by the state. Most recently, he completed a course in blended learning at the University of Texas, studying distance learning just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.

In August 2022, Gibson’s program will move into a local career academy, allowing him to teach students from four city high schools instead of only one. Gibson was a finalist for the 2019 Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“We celebrate mistakes. This approach allows the student the freedom to try things on their own without repercussions. It looks like this:
· High-five
· Analysis of cause and effect
· Review, re-teach, demonstration if needed
· Implement process changes if required
· Start over.”