“My students are given freedom to choose, design, and work on projects of interest to them and future career goals as they relate to the curriculum. When a program such as mine can allow students to connect how their attendance and engagement in high school is related to graduation and achieving life goals, the benefit to student success is immeasurable. It means the difference between dropping out of school or staying until graduation.”
Jerry Webb is a veteran skilled trades teacher of 21 years and currently teaches the manufacturing, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) Systems pathway at Chattanooga Central High School in Harrison, TN. Webb has 12 years of direct industry experience and holds a Tennessee Professional Occupational Educator’s License with industry certifications and teaching endorsements in numerous fields including HVAC, Manufacturing Technology, Solar Photovoltaic Technology, Wind Turbine Technology, Principles of Engineering, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, and Personal Finance.
The Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Systems pathway Webb teaches is comprised of four courses intended to introduce students to the fields of Construction, Electrical, Carpentry, Masonry, Plumbing, and Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. Given the broad range of knowledge and skills needed to be an engaging and effective educator in this field and to teach students to be successful in related jobs, he has found it necessary to master a variety of skilled trades. In the process, Webb developed a sincere love of lifelong learning, and an ability to work with students of all different learning styles.
Many of his students come from challenging socio-economic backgrounds and are at a higher risk of dropping out of school prior to graduation than non-trades students. Through his MEP Systems Pathway, students are able to engage in career readiness options in a more appealing environment with hands on, collaborative, product-based learning; while using applied, contextual learning to help students see the relevance of what they are learning and its connection to career opportunities and life goals.
Webb combines his enthusiasm in project based learning with his passion for sustainable living and responsible environmental stewardship to teach students skills that allow them to be good caretakers of the environment and prepare them for jobs in the growing alternative energy industry. In 2018, his students have designed and created solar powered chicken tractors and sold them to local farmers through their partnership with Real World Scholars to create an entrepreneurial start-up called “Next Generation Sustainable Living.” They plan to expand what they manufacture and sell, while also building off-grid, tiny homes for the community. Webb formed a partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority, where students built a portable, off-grid, solar power generating trailer named the “Green Machine.”
This past year, 93 percent of his students passed the Dual Credit exam through Chattanooga State Technical Community College, giving them industry certification in solar technology. Webb is extremely proud of his students, and of the fact that they leave his program ready with skills to work in careers they enjoy.
“When it comes down to it, education should be about what is best for students. We want happy, productive citizens. If I can use these new tools to help my students find both purpose and meaning in their lives while providing financial security for themselves and their families, I can find no greater meaning in my own work as an educator.”