CONCRETE — Jim Newby’s classroom at Concrete High School is busy and loud — but his students are focused.
Moving between power sanders and power saws, the students in Newby’s woodshop class are working on finishing up their projects, which range from flag cases to footstools.
“I like having the chance to work with the students on their projects, and taking them from an average project to a great one,” Newby said. “I try to strive for perfection with my projects, and I want them to do the same.”
For his dedication to his craft and sharing it with his students, Newby has received the William Dahlgren Award for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
“I love what I do here,” Newby said. “I don’t consider it work.”
The awards are presented annually by the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE) Foundation.
In Skagit County, the award is sponsored by Janicki Industries and awarded to teachers who motivate students in STEM-related fields.
“Jim won the Dahlgren award this year because of his consistent demonstration of excellence in motivating students to achieve their best, integrity in showing students how to do more than what is required, modeling respect for each other, and innovation by inspiring students to explore and create on their own,” Janicki Industries President John Janicki said in a news release.
Nationwide, between 15 and 20 people receive the Dahlgren Award each year, Janicki said.
Newby said he discovered his passion for working with students while coaching middle school sports teams in college. It was then he decided to become a teacher.
He’s spent all 26 years of his teaching career in the Concrete School District and began teaching woodshop seven years ago, he said.
“This is an element that our kids absolutely need,” said Concrete School District Superintendent Wayne Barrett. “All of the skills that employers say they’re looking for are developed right here in Jim’s classroom.”
Newby said the wood he uses in class is mostly donated wood from nearby Pacific Rim Toneworks.
He hopes to show his students that the wood — despite not being good enough for the company that supplies wood to guitar companies such as Gibson — still has value.
“What can we make out of this?” he asked. “What’s the beauty that the wood holds?”
Newby’s passion for woodworking began when he was younger and would work on projects with his father and grandfather.
That passion carries over for his students.
“He doesn’t just give up on you,” sophomore Jade Morgan said.
Many of the things the students create are auctioned off, Newby said. This year, the students’ items raised $800 for the Lions Club.
Junior Troy Schmidt said he has experience working with his hands on projects with his father, a mechanic. But he didn’t have much woodworking experience until he took Newby’s class for the first time as a sophomore.
This year, Schmidt was one of three students nationally to be awarded the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s youth volunteer award because of how much money he has raised for the organization through the pieces he’s created with Newby’s guidance.
“He takes a lot of pride in our projects and makes sure they turn out nice,” Schmidt said of Newby.
The Dahlgren award comes with a cash prize of $500, which Newby said will go toward machinery for the class.
“Hopefully I’m doing the kids justice,” he said.