“My class is a diverse community that coexists like family. Making a real difference in their lives, makes a real difference in mine.”

As a high school junior and senior, Thomas Aubin studied welding and, with the encouragement of his teacher, became the top student in the class. After graduation, Aubin joined the Navy Reserve, working as a hull maintenance technician, pursued further education in welding and ultimately found a job welding battle tanks for General Dynamics. After three years in industry, Aubin received a call from his high school welding teacher, who was retiring. Aubin took over his classroom, the same classroom where he learned to weld.

“I felt a huge connection to my welding teacher and decided that I would like to make a difference in the lives of kids like he did for me,” Aubin said in his prizewinning application.

After teaching for several years, Aubin returned to industry, building cell towers and finishing his college education before coming back to the classroom for good. Since then, he has pursued several trades teaching credentials, including becoming an American Welding Society certified welding inspector and instructor, and has accumulated 136 college credits and numerous certifications to bring ever-evolving expertise to his students (a group that includes two of his sons).

Aubin teaches a curriculum aligned to national standards, focusing on getting his students certified in four welding processes. His class is three hours long and his students come from several different schools. He spends one-on-one time with each student as they arrive to class, and encourages advanced students to mentor first-year classmates. Students can earn college credits with several local institutions.

Despite his school’s rural location, Aubin connects students to real-world opportunities by collaborating with businesses in Montreal and local manufacturers like Volvo, Bombardier, Nova Bus and Jeffords Steel. Upon graduation, 85 to 94 percent of Aubin’s students pursue further education, enroll in the armed forces or begin a career in the trades. Aubin has been a finalist for the past three years of the Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“In these days of coronavirus, I have learned to adapt to technology. Online learning has really been a blessing in disguise. I find students engaged and surprisingly adaptive. Finding new ways to teach a hands-on class has given me a great deal of insight as to how to better serve the class.”