With his first semester on the job nearly complete, Pullman High School’s new shop teacher Tim Schotzko says he still feels he has a lot to learn but is excited to move the program forward.

Formerly a math teacher with the district, Schotzko took the helm of the high school’s metal, wood and machine shop programs this year following the retirement of long-time teacher Vince Hanley.

Schotzko acknowledged he has big shoes to fill — Hanley helped to build the program to what it is today, and his students commonly won state and national acclaim in welding competitions — but he said he’s grateful to inherit such a well-run and well-funded program.

“He’s just doing a wonderful job,” agreed Principal Juston Pollestad. “It’s a huge undertaking, and he’s really handling it well and working incredibly hard for his students.”

“I think he’s done a fantastic job,” said senior Will Cole, who is now in his fourth year of shop classes at PHS. “Almost all of the students here are having a great time learning and they’re doing their best to actively pursue the projects that they’re working on, which I like to see because you can tell everyone’s engaged.”

A PHS graduate himself, Schotzko said he’s a former student of Hanley’s and has also worked as a professional welder while attending Washington State University. He said his background allowed him to get certified to teach the classes relatively quickly. While there’s still a bit of a learning curve to overcome, he said he already has a good idea of how he’d like the program to serve its students.

“One of the things that I like about this is I have a couple students who next summer, hopefully they can go get jobs building houses and the contractors, they need people in the summer,” Schotzko said. “That’s kind of where I want it to go — I want these students to have skills that they can go get jobs, even if it’s a part-time job while they’re going to college.”

Schotzko said he has made some minor adjustments to how some of the classes have been run in the past. For example, rather than fine woodworking, his woodshop students spent part of the last semester building large barn-roofed sheds — one of which was purchased by the district.

“My goal is that later in life, they may not be able to finish a project but they’ll have enough skill and enough courage to at least attack it,” he said.

With other projects, Schotzko said he’s hoping to preserve the high school’s tradition of community involvement and metal sculpture.

He said student Noah Hutton has been collaborating with Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson with an aim to erect a large metal sculpture in town that showcases the school and its shop program.

Hutton, who won first place in a state-wide welding competition last year, has already produced a prototype. While they’re still investigating ways to fund the sculpture, Schotzko said the plan calls for an eight-foot tall aluminum “P” atop a metal dais inscribed with something to the effect of “Welcome to Pullman High School, home of the Greyhounds.”

Schotzko said if he does his job, students will leave PHS’s shop program with skills in machining, woodwork and metalwork and also in leadership and community involvement.

“They’re helping serve the community and they’re getting great skills while they’re doing those things,” Pollestad said. “We’re going to send kids out of here that are ready to go on to the next level of school if they want to or some kids are going to come out of here ready to get a job.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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