Liberty Bell High School Construction Trades teacher Trent Whatley gets a little bit emotional when talking about the tools he was recently able to purchase for his classrooms with the more than $10,000 Winthrop Kiwanis raised through their Fund-A-Dream campaign at last year’s Bite of the Methow. “This is a total game-changer for what we can accomplish,” he says, referring to the Advanced Construction Trades classes whose students will use the new tools.
In the past, Whatley says, limited quantities of hand tools determined what projects the students could take on, or Whatley had to “beg and borrow” extra basic tools — levels, drills, drywall tools — in order for the students to accomplish larger construction projects. “Thanks to Kiwanis,” Whatley says, “we’re suddenly able to be self-sufficient.”
Storage cases stacked neatly in the construction workshop contain drills, impact drivers, levels and drywall tools. A new miter saw gleams, awaiting its first cut. There are four new ladders, a job site heater, and a generator, as well as some large storage containers, so the job site trailer doesn’t have to be crammed full of all of the tools at all times. “The portable tool boxes mean that we can put the tools we need for a particular project in the trailer and be able to access them without unloading the entire trailer to get to something in the back,” says Whatley.
Whatley, whose background includes (among other things) years of taking volunteer crews of kids to build homes in Tecate, Mexico, speaks of the importance of giving his students relevant, important projects that they can participate in from start to finish. Past, current and future construction trades projects include working on various buildings on the TwispWorks campus, helping to build the Classroom in Bloom greenhouse and root cellar, and a bench project at the Winthrop Rink, replacing the cold metal bleachers in the rink-side hockey team boxes with wooden benches that have storage underneath. “Kids’ butts are freezing to those metal benches,” Whatley says.
With his longest class periods being 80 minutes, Whatley is challenged to teach in small bursts what would ideally be trade skills learned in longer sessions. “If we’re traveling 10 minutes to a job site,” he says, “we really only have an hour to work.” The tools donation from Kiwanis will help immensely in making these 60 minutes more productive and efficient.
In addition to the gratitude Whatley has for the Kiwanians’ prioritization of the construction trades, he also gives a nod of thanks to North Valley Lumber for their organization of the tools order and to Makita Power Tool for helping leverage the Kiwanis donation to maximum advantage. Most of all, Whatley appreciates not just the tools themselves, but also the increased opportunities and independence they give the students. Now, says Whatley, “Instead of being dependent, we’re prepared.”