PONTIAC (HOI) – A teacher at Livingston Area Career Center was awarded a $50,000 check this week. Jodi Lancaster teaches welding.
She told us to win the award, she had to take part in a competition between 750 teachers. Lancaster was selected as one of 15 second place winners in the Harbor Freight Tools competition. In addition to the fifty-grand, Lancaster received an engraved tool box for her work area.
While she knew the end of the contest was coming, Lancaster was surprised with the announcement at school Thursday, “It’s just really amazing,” she said, saying she was simply speechless.
While a monetary reward is nice, Lancaster said there’s something else she finds rewarding about her work.
“100% hands down the students. Everything I do, I do for them. I just try on a daily basis to, every decision I make, make it for the kids.”
With the money, she said she hopes to buy a downdraft table, to help pull fumes from her students’ work area. She also wants to help fund special projects for her students.
“It’s an expensive program to run,” she said.
She said this grant gives her freedom to buy whatever materials they need, since they typically get their supplies from local business owners as donations.
“You’re limited to whatever it is they have to give you,” said Lancaster.
Lancaster expressed pride for her program, saying their latest career fair for freshmen drew employers like Caterpillar, Pipe fitters Local 99, and others.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the welding industry to grow 26% by 2020, calling it one of the fastest growing jobs in the country.
Lancaster said when she started welding school, there were only three other women in her class, but she said she recognizes interest in the field is growing for men and women.
“I think being able to represent it, and represent it well is the important part.”