“I have found that it is the intangible things – the life lessons, the soft skills, the networking that is done with their peers and teachers alike that really change these students’ life and can completely better their attitude and their trajectory.”
John Lockhart has been teaching agriculture mechanics, structures and equipment repair for the past eight years in rural West Virginia. He currently teaches at South Harrison High School in Lost Creek. As part of a robust agriculture mechanics curriculum, Lockhart’s students learn welding, masonry, plumbing, carpentry and agricultural structures, and can earn college credit for this coursework.
Lockhart structures his classroom in a workplace simulation model. Students are active participants in a school-based company that they operate. Students rotate through multiple roles in the company, working alongside local businesses and industry representatives to create products and services for the community. The class operates like a working business, and also allows students to apply and get hands-on practice in theoretical principles of agricultural mechanics. In partnership with local alumni and business partners, students have constructed a 16-foot trailer, rewired a tractor, and plumbed automated watering systems.
Students in Lockhart’s programs showcase their skills through the Future Farmers of America. In the last year, three were named state champions in competitions in repair and maintenance, design and fabrication, and small engine repair. Over his career in teaching, many of Lockhart’s students have excelled in these competitions, with 33 state champions, a national finalist, and many more medalists.
In 2016, Lockhart joined a cohort of teachers for an extensive professional development study on sustainability in construction, providing instruction on LEED certified construction practices. The following year, he served on the West Virginia Agriculture Technology Catalyst team, providing training on robotics and technology to agriculture mechanics programs throughout the state.
Lockhart has received a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture & Extension Education, and a master’s degree in Education. He was named State Outstanding Early Career Teacher by the West Virginia Association of Agriculture Education. In 2021, he was the West Virginia Association of Career and Technical Education Teacher of the Year and one of five finalists for the Association of Career and Technical Education’s National Teacher of the Year award.
“This pandemic has greatly changed me. But the biggest impacts I believe are going to be positive ones, and the key take-away for me is this… talk to every student you have, every day you have them. These meaningful conversations may not seem like a lot, but they could really change a kid’s life.”