“If my students choose to go directly into the workforce, the certifications they earn before graduating make them much more employable. If they choose to pursue higher education, the skills they’ve learned in our program are a springboard to advance quickly, or to earn good money and pay for their education.”

Jeff Webb teaches mechatronics at Southern Michigan Center for Science and Industry in Hudson, Michigan. His father, a skilled tradesman for over 40 years, taught Webb from an early age that the trades could lay a foundation for a successful life. He received a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with majors in Earth Science and Geography from Central Michigan University and later a master’s degree in the Art of Teaching from Marygrove College. In 2011, after years of teaching middle school science, Webb began teaching engineering principles through Project Lead the Way. He enjoyed how much it fostered his curiosity for how things are made, and how much his students thrived with the hands-on learning involved. In 2018, he officially made the pivot to mechatronics.

Webb has made several investments in honing his trades skills to become a better teacher. At the start of his current position, he participated in a job-shadowing program that provided over 200 hours of industry experience. During that time, he learned from many trades professionals – several of whom now sit on his advisory board. His training includes Fanuc robotics, CNC milling, hydraulics, pneumatics, 3D printing, residential wiring, and more. Putting these trainings into practice in his program have led to some of Webb’s most valued experiences: seeing students grasp a concept, gain confidence in their abilities, and take pride in the tangible results of their learning.

Learning by doing is Webb’s preferred method of teaching. Instead of lecturing, he prefers supervising the “controlled chaos” of his shop, with students working on training circuits and CAD software, programming robots and hovercraft, or running the CNC mill. Students take home readings and instruction on method and technique so they can spend the majority of their class time in the lab, doing hands-on work. Webb emphasizes that in order to graduate to more advanced projects, they have to put in the work and master the skills necessary to complete them first. Students’ skills and projects are often showcased on the school’s Facebook page, and at the school’s Celebration of Learning Event at the end of each year.

The variety and specialization available through Webb’s program opens many doors for his students. First and second year students are exposed to mechanical fabrication, CAD drafting, blueprint drawing, and more to pique their interest in specific careers. By their third year, Webb works with students to formulate a curricular plan specific to the field they wish to pursue. They can earn up to nine industrial certifications, which they work toward in their final two years, increasing their employability if they choose to go into industry. The added skills of collaboration, punctuality, work ethic, resume writing and interviewing give them additional flexibility in their career choices. Webb enjoys seeing his students go on to earn post-secondary certifications, start post-secondary education, and enter jobs in the manufacturing field, knowing that his program was a positive stepping stone to their future careers.

Webb previously was a finalist for the 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“I love giving my students the ability to master the skills they need to become successful. There is a direct correlation between the concepts they are learning, and the careers they are pursuing.”