Scott Billings, Twin Lakes High School, Monticello, Indiana
Even in middle school, Scott Billings knew he wanted to be an educator. For the last 18 years, he has fulfilled his passion for education by teaching construction at Twin Lakes High School in Monticello, Indiana. Billings’ decision to teach construction stems from working and learning construction as a kid with his father. “[Construction] is something I’ve always loved and never forgot,” explains Billings, “I always tell them to be the most energetic person you know. And I try to be that person for them, to come excited to teach every day.”
He explains that Twin Lakes is part of a group of schools called Indian Trails Career Center Co-Op. The construction students have built a spec house each year for the past 41 years. “We try to use mostly local professionals to help us with the difficult areas like heating and cooling, plumbing,” describes Billings. The students complete all the framing, roofing, and insulation as well as trim painting and installing windows. At the end of the school year, the students and local partners involved in the project are recognized at an open house, where the house is put up for sale. “Most of the homes are three bedroom, two bath, with a two car attached garage. We are also trying to collaborate with our landscape class and computer-aided drafting (CAD) design students,” he says on plans to become a full service school.
Billings believes that because construction is an inherently dangerous profession, it is part of his responsibility to educate his students on safety. He explains that before any student begins work on site, Billings’ students must be aware of the safety risks. “We spend over a week in class on all the power tools they will be using,” explains Billings, “We go over an additional safety chapter and electrical and ladder safety.” His students are also quizzed over all equipment and tools and Billings himself demonstrates the proper use of all tools to ensure that his students are taking proper precautions and are fully prepared to handle the tools correctly.
In addition to instruction on proper equipment use and safety, Billings also incorporates the OSHA 10-Hour Construction Industry safety training in his classroom. He explains that he gives his students the opportunity to receive an industry recognized credential but it is their personal responsibilities to complete the training. “I use it as part of my curriculum, usually in the winter. We use the training for e-learning days when we are forced inside,” he describes. The OSHA safety training has impacted Billings’ students positively making them more aware of safety hazards and giving them a competitive advantage over their peers without training. He says that some of his students have been hired by Caterpillar, and many others have been selected for valued positions right out of high school.
Billings is quick to remind his students that safety is just as important in the education environment as it is on a professional worksite. “13 years ago, I got my fingers in a table saw during an exercise,” says Billings on an accident that became a valuable teaching moment, “I wasn’t using the safety guards correctly and ended up needing a few stitches. It was a good reminder to myself and students that getting too comfortable with equipment can lead to mistakes.” Safety should never be an afterthought and Billings teaches his students to be proactive when it comes to safety in the workplace.