“In my classroom, every kid understands that they are valuable and that their contributions are appreciated. I act as a facilitator for most of the teaching that takes place so that the students may think for themselves.”

Jason Blackwell teaches Industrial Maintenance at Escambia Career Readiness Center in Brewton, Alabama. His experience in the skilled trades began when his father, a tradesman, told him, “if you listen to me, I’ll teach you everything I know.” Blackwell did just that, learning and following in his father’s footsteps. But in 2012, Blackwell was in a wreck that changed his life – he could no longer do much of his trade work that required intense physical labor. However, he was soon approached with an opportunity to teach, and he decided he wanted to share with others the knowledge his father had shared with him. With 20 years of experience and certifications across multiple trades, Blackwell has taught several different courses in his nine years in the classroom – all with the same goal to empower and support his students.

Blackwell encourages his students to take ownership of their learning and work collaboratively to solve problems. First-year students partner with more experienced students, and all take on leadership roles throughout the year. There are group competitions within their student-run company, and Blackwell teaches financial and project management, with students in charge of estimating costs, procuring materials, planning the schedule, and performing and evaluating the work. Blackwell also works to ensure his students have opportunities beyond his program. He partners with community colleges to provide pathways for dual enrollment and last year established a career route into a nationally-recognized, certified apprenticeship program in industrial maintenance. His class also helped create the first competency-based apprenticeship for commercial drivers in Alabama. His program is an example throughout the state, with a 100 percent pass rate for the class and an 80 percent pass rate for National Center for Construction Education and Research and Manufacturing Skill Standards Council certifications. His students also have a 70 percent completion rate from 2-year college. His classes won the SkillsUSA Chapter of Distinction Gold and Silver in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Beyond teaching them technical skills, Blackwell strives to support his students in all their endeavors. In his rural area, many students come from challenging backgrounds. Blackwell attends their sports games and takes them to meet industry partners for breakfast. He connects with each student individually and mentors them across all aspects of life. In Blackwell’s program, they have an opportunity to complete school improvement projects and participate in various community service events after school and on the weekends. He and his students work together to make a positive impact in and out of the classroom.

Blackwell has a bachelor’s degree in Career and Technical Education from Athens State and is currently pursuing a master’s in Education from the University of Alabama. He won the SkillsUSA Alabama High School Advisor of the Year in 2020 and 2021.

“I show my students that as a teacher I do not even have all the answers, but through careful observation and an understanding of our equipment, we can take apart and fix anything. Nothing is unconquerable if critically analyzed with intentional effort, and this is how I coach my students.”