“My students identify the positives in each other’s work and offer suggestions for improvement when necessary. I believe a major part of my job is to prepare my students to become model, productive, contributing members of society who can work well with others in the spirit of teamwork.”

Jodie Melancon teaches agricultural mechanics at Avoyelles High School in Moreauville, Louisiana – a calling she was deeply drawn to in 2011 after spending many years teaching part-time while also being self-employed. Having previously received her bachelor’s degree in vocational agricultural education, she returned to LSU 20 years later to regain her teacher certification while earning a Master’s Degree. She was offered the agriculture teacher position at Avoyelles High School, and to prepare for the school’s ag-mechanics focus, Melancon took welding classes at night and earned National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) certifications in Welding I and Carpentry I and II.

Melancon focuses on helping her students earn industry-based certifications and preparing them to enter the workforce directly after high school with skills that will earn them high wages. Using NCCER Core, Carpentry, and Welding curricula, she ensures her students learn in a classroom and shop environment that mimics the construction industry. Students participate in stringent safety training and are also tasked with keeping the shop clean and running up to OSHA regulations. Upperclassmen serve as safety officers and guide new students through complex processes, such as modeling how to use a circular saw to cut stair stringers.

Melancon regularly pairs more experienced students with those who need more guidance, encouraging leadership and teamwork. She also encourages problem-solving inside and outside the classroom. Earlier this school year, her students were called upon to fix the flagpole on the softball field, which needed to be ready for a tournament that weekend. Her carpentry class assessed the situation and were able to string a new rope and right the flagpole in time for the games to begin. Safety is a priority in her classroom; student “Safety Trainee Officers” perform safety checks such as inspecting tools to make sure they are safe for use and ensuring the area is free of debris and clutter.

Melancon’s instruction has had a profound impact on her students: in 11 years, 251 students have earned NCCER Core Certifications, 98 have earned NCCER Carpentry I Certifications, and 149 have earned Welder’s Helper status. Many have construction job offers before they graduate from high school. One of her former students, now a Blackhawk Pilot in the Louisiana National Guard and a diesel mechanic, learned welding in Melancon’s class and earned his certification. Currently, he is the only employee in his shop who can weld and is often called upon to do so. Melancon’s current students are also finding success while competing in FFA Carpentry and Welding contests – which helps them realize they have the necessary skills to compete, and helps build their confidence and self-esteem for the future.

Melancon has been recognized in both her school and parish school district as High School Teacher of the Year.

“I believe students have an unlimited potential to learn when they are placed in a nurturing learning environment where they feel safe, valued, and wanted.”