Crafting Futures and Creating Sawdust

James Ross, mentor teacher (left) and Erik Junker-Andersen, intern (right)

James Ross had an early introduction to the world of woodworking. As a young teenager, he found himself under the mentorship of a carpenter, and family friend, working on houses during spring break. He continued to work in trades for nine years before deciding to transition from Red Seal carpenter to teacher. After playing rugby in university, while pursuing his Bachelor of Political Science, and coaching his brother’s rugby team, Ross found himself drawn to the similarities between coaching and teaching.

“I fell in love with the idea of shaping young minds through coaching and teaching felt like a natural progression,” he reflects.

Ross pursued a trades teacher education program at Okanagan College and then a teacher certificate at UBC Okanagan.

“Teaching provides a great work-life balance, and every day is a new opportunity to inspire young minds,” says Ross.

Erik Junker-Andersen, BEd ’24, followed a different introduction to trades education. His early exposure to trades came through fixing things with his father and fostering curiosity in their basement workshop.

“My dad’s love for fixing and building things created an early appreciation for trades,” reflects Junker-Andersen.

After working in emergency services as a paramedic and a 911 dispatcher, Junker-Andersen’s desire for more meaningful connections led him to teaching.

“I was seeing these situations that could have been avoided if the people involved had developed important life skills, like coping and problem-solving,” he says. “Working in education seemed like the perfect place to help young people establish these skills.”

Armed with a diverse skill set and a passion for hands-on learning, Junker-Andersen embraced the opportunity to become a trades teacher for part of his final internship.

“Teaching trades is a great blend of creativity and a fun environment,” he says. “It’s about empowering students with skills that will benefit them in the real world.”

During the internship, Ross and Junker-Andersen collaborated on new and innovative ways to empower their students. One project was updating the step-by-step safety checklist that not only ensured the students’ safety, but also served as a tool for assessing their understanding.

“We’re always trying new things, refining our methods, and adapting to create the best learning experience for our students,” says Ross.

For both Junker-Andersen and Ross, a highlight of the school year is watching the transformation of reserved students into confident individuals, ready to tackle new challenges.

“Mentoring Erik has also been highlight for me,” says Ross. “Being involved in shaping the next generation of trades teachers is rewarding, and Erik brings a lot of passion into the role along with new knowledge and skills, like his first aid training.”

For Junker-Andersen, he found his time in the woodshop class has strengthened his overall approach to teaching.

“My time in the shop taught me so many more ways to teach that are applicable outside of the woodshop class,” says Junker-Andersen. “It’s also strengthened my confidence with teaching new subjects. I didn’t have a background working as a carpenter and with James’s support, I’ve learned a lot about working tools.”

Junker-Andersen encourages future interns to take a chance on trades if they have the opportunity.

“If you have the passion and motivation, go for it. Embrace the creativity, and enjoy the fun environment,” he says.

“Teaching trades is not just a job; it’s a rewarding journey of empowering students with lifelong skills,” adds Ross. “It’s a chance to make a lasting impact.”

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