“To make the trades come alive, I get students in the shop. I blow the shop time requirements out of the water. I work hard to create high quality classroom sessions, but the lights come on when students put their hands on tools and go to work.”
Adam Bourne has been a carpentry and electrical teacher at The NET Charter High School in New Orleans, Louisiana, for four years. He became a teacher after more than a dozen years as an electrician, carpenter, job site manager and then a business owner. He learned electrical work alongside his electrician father, and then worked with his employees when he owned his business, teaching and learning with them. Bourne was inspired to become a teacher after he saw the large number of unemployed people in New Orleans, and wanted to help create meaningful training opportunities for young people growing up in poverty and amidst very challenging circumstances. In 2017, Bourne was one of 54 semifinalists for the inaugural Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.
Bourne began teaching one daily afternoon class. He loved the experience so much that soon he was teaching at a junior college and two other high schools. Through persistence, vision and collaboration with a wide range of business, industry, trades professionals, internship and arts group partners, Bourne helped expand the NET’s program in carpentry and electrical crafts at the school and to 10 other charter schools, resulting in a nearly 100% job placement rate for students earning the course credential and completing the program. A National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) credentialed carpenter and electrician, Bourne is also an NCCER master trainer and certified instructor. His courses are systematically aligned with the local economy’s high-wage, high-demand fields and the career pathways identified as most promising by the State of Louisiana.
To make the skilled trades come alive, Bourne encourages his students to surpass minimum shop time requirements. He sets high standards and tall goals for his students: carpentry students build entire structures from the ground up, completing them before they earn the valued credential. Electrical students are hands-on every day, completing wiring boards, installing ceiling fans, bending conduit. Students start from building bird and dog houses and advance to rolling snowball stands, decoratively welded bus stops, and a 20′ wide walking piano structure.
With carpentry his trade of choice, Bourne gets great satisfaction observing how students get to see a pile of lumber become a home. He loves seeing the process come to life: from standing the first wall, to seeing the excitement build as they complete a flooring system, adding the furnishings and drywall, and then getting to stand back and admire the biggest project they have ever completed.
“What I love most about being a teacher is seeing students change the course of their future as many of my students get jobs and make more than their entire household, at age eighteen! They help stabilize their family and future not only for themselves, but often for younger brothers and sisters as well.”