By Mary O’KEEFE
“It was a complete surprise.” That was the reaction from Rosemont Middle School teacher Terry Parker to the news he was the recipient of the Los Angeles County Industrial Technology Education Association Middle School Teacher of the Year.
A long title that, simply put, means Mr. Parker was recognized for what he does best – teach and inspire students.
Parker heard of his award after receiving a phone call from Richard Nicholson of the LACITEA. Industrial arts covers traditional woodworking and metalworking, and also includes architecture, photography and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“When I first started [teaching], there wasn’t anything like [STEM],” Parker said.
He has been in education for 40 years, 20 of those years as an industrial arts teacher. Over the years, he has seen some changes, including more girls taking his class.
“It’s nice to see girls taking the class,” he said. “Many do very well.”
Parker has also seen an increase in technology woven into the traditional industrial arts setting.
“I think what Terry has done is taken the traditional shop and [started to train] in computer numerical control (CNC),” said Ron Sowers, assistant principal at Rosemont Middle School and a former industrial arts teacher. “The skills these kids are using … will give them an edge [in their future].”
CNC is a computer-aided tool that merges technology with traditional woodworking equipment.
For Parker, the technology may change but the foundation for his teaching remains the same – the students. While some districts have chosen to cut industrial arts and other career technical classes, Parker is thankful Glendale Unified has continued to support the class.
Not all students learn in the same manner, and industrial arts allows some kids to go beyond the book to get hands-on learning.
“I have kids who come into my workshop and work diligently on their projects but struggle in other classes,” Parker said. “They like using their hands and are good at what they do.”
Parker added learning industrial arts is of value to students who are interested in the STEM fields.
“I think if you are going on to be an engineer or something in the STEM field, you need to learn how to use tools and that is where [industrial arts can help],” he added.
“What he is doing is teaching the correct way of using the equipment,” Sowers said.
At the heart of Parker’s teaching, though, is the student. Throughout the years, Parker has gone outside the classroom to mentor students in clubs including the Rockets Club, Students Run Los Angeles and the Rosemont Power Walking and Running Club.
Parker added that, whether it is the 1950s or 2014, kids have one thing in common when it comes to industrial arts.
“They still want to take that project home,” he said.
Parker continues to teach and work with kids. Due to injuries, last year he did not mentor the Rosemont Running Club, which trains students to run the L.A. Marathon, but wants to start the club again once the injuries have healed.
Parker said that receiving the Los Angeles County Industrial Technology Education Association Middle School Teacher of the Year is a bonus for his years of teaching.
“I was still amazed that I would even be considered for the award, let alone win [it],” Parker said. “Mr. Sowers has received this award when he was teaching. I consider Mr. Sowers as the guru of industrial arts technology education. To get the same award as he received – I am in awe.”