Richard Dawdy, Wagner High School, San Antonio, Texas
Richard Dawdy’s career as a CTE teacher began 26 years ago when he worked as a shop foreman for a company seeking to hire entry level mechanics and welders. When the company he was working for started having problems finding qualified workers, Dawdy’s mentor suggested that he look into teaching. Coming from a background in the welding and mechanic field, Dawdy’s experiences let him transition easily into a teaching position where over the course of his career, he has continued to give his students opportunities to practice their technical and soft skills under his attention. Although Dawdy will be retiring this coming year, his wisdom and desire to bring a safety culture to his classroom will forever be a reflection on his former students.
Safety has been an important element of his own career in the industry and something he wants to pass on and engrain in each student. “Safety should be the number one priority in all CTE classrooms. I have worked for 46 years as a welder and mechanic and in that time safety has been my number one concern,” Dawdy says, “Students and all workers need to have a complete understanding of their work environment. You come to work unhurt and you should return home the same way.” It is important to Dawdy to give his students a safety education so he made the decision to implement OSHA 10-Hour training into his curriculum. Dawdy’s decision to implement OSHA training stems from the fact that most companies related to welding and mechanic work require the credential in order to be hired. Often, the initial OSHA credential serves as a motivating factor for his students to seek out credentials and certifications related specifically to welding.
It is not just the credential that Dawdy is serious about, but also the necessity of making safety a part of each and every day. Every six weeks, Dawdy requires his students to complete a safety assignment report. “They have the option to work on anything that has to do with welding safety – personal protective equipment, fume extraction, precautions against fires — you name it,” he says. Dawdy aims to make safety an integral part of his students’ workplace habits and have them remain cognizant of safety and health hazards. “When a student is found to be working unsafe, they are required to review that section of the OSHA safety training again,” he explains about how serious he takes the safety of his students.
Dawdy attributes safety as part of the success of his students inside and outside of the classroom. This year, seven of his students placed in first with welding projects. As a member of the board of directors of SkillsUSA Texas, Dawdy is proud that his students are consecutively placing in the top 3 for all of their hard work. It is also important to Dawdy to foster relationships between the CTE programs at Wagner High School by donating projects for them to auction off as part of their fundraising and the money goes to that particular career cluster. Dawdy believes in the success of all the CTE programs and enjoys the camaraderie that comes with interacting building connections between all the CTE students in his school. His students have built and donated barbeque pits and grills for fundraisers and recently donated a five foot long barbeque pit to the culinary arts program at Wagner as a gift.
Working within the community, Wagner and his students have been mentors to local middle school students in their welding programs to help them with the more intensive skills and tasks. “They might not have the resources or skills so they come to us,” Wagner explains, “We helped Kitty Hawk Middle School welding students complete their project to take to SkillsUSA.” Being able to work with younger students has been a privilege for Wagner and his students. Their projects have been expansive throughout the community including building pavilions and pergolas at city parks and picnic tables for parks and city swimming pools.
This is Dawdy’s last year of teaching, but his achievements and mentorship will continue to motivate his former students to be successful throughout their lives. He shares that two of his current students are employed as part-time welders and have been promised full-time positions upon their graduation. “It has been my biggest accomplishment to help all of my students become confident in all parts of life. I have students who work for some of the largest companies in the United States and the thing that makes me the proudest is when they take the time to call, email or visit me just to say ‘Thank you’.”
Please join us in congratulating Dawdy on a phenomenal career in CTE.