Teachers receive few accolades for the efforts they make every day on behalf of the next generations. So a meal and an award go a long way toward recognizing their dedication to students.
The teachers honored on Friday during the Teacher of the Year luncheon at Hungry Mother State Park were each chosen by their respective schools as top teachers for the upcoming year. And one of them, Doug Haga, automotive services technology instructor at Smyth Career and Technology Center, was selected as the 2019 Smyth County Teacher of the Year.
Haga is part of the team at SCTC focusing on career and technical education (CTE), life skills education and vocational training in job skills.
His goal as a CTE teacher is to prepare his students for the workforce, not just with the necessary skills but with proper behavior as well.
“I run my lab like a shop,” Haga said in a 2016 interview. “They [students] have to learn they’re going to work. I teach them how to dress and act, and tell them at the beginning of the year your attitude determines your altitude, how far you can go.”
“Soft skills for students are so important,” he said, “like honesty and manners and attitude, professional dress. You are perceived as you are dressed, like in uniforms. They [the customers] want to see you looking professional.” That is good for the student as well, he said, because when they look more professional they feel more professional and it reflects in their attitude and work ethic.
SCTC is training the next generation of automotive maintenance and repair technicians. The Automotive Service Technology and Auto Body Repair & Refinishing programs give students a grounding in basic services. They can then go on to further their training or possibly right into the workforce in a helper level position.
This next generation of auto shop workers is vital, Haga said, because a shortage is coming in the near future.
“I get constant calls looking for technicians and those who can simply do an oil change,” Haga said. “They’re looking for good employees who can pass a drug test. There is a shortage of properly trained employees.”
“If automotive students apply themselves and are honest they will never be without a job,” he said. “We have to have our transportation. You can guarantee yourself a job if you are honest and work well.”
Haga has been teaching 14 years, eight at SCTC. The Saltville native graduated from this program in 1994 and worked in the industry for 11 years. He said he became interested in teaching when he realized the auto tech industry was having difficulty hiring people with entry level skills. He was teaching technicians twice his age. He said he would encourage any of his students interested in teaching to follow that path.
About the recognition announced this past spring, Haga said, “It’s overwhelming to receive this award and be a CTE teacher. Maybe this will help put a spotlight on these CTE students.”
Haga said he will use the opportunity to promote career and technical education. He said he wouldn’t mind spreading the message on a regional, state and national level should he get the opportunity.
“If I go no further,” he said, “I want people to know how hard these students work to achieve certification and industry license while still in high school.”
As county teacher of the year, Haga will go on to regional competition.
Haga was congratulated by school administration and board members at the luncheon and presented a plaque by Jesse Choate, board chairman, who also presented plaques to the top teachers from each of the county’s schools.
“I think teachers are the rim who hold it all together, dealing with the children day in and day out,” Choate said. He also thanked the principals, staff and administration for their efforts.
Teachers honored included: Amy Prater, Rich Valley Elementary; Gina Tuell, Saltville Elementary; David Hoffman, Marion Elementary; Sherri Gregory, Chilhowie Elementary; Melissa Lee, Sugar Grove Elementary; Hannah Sage, Marion Senior High; Cathy Roberts, Chilhowie High; Ann Chambers, Marion Middle; Dana Tomlinson, Atkins Elementary; Lesia Harris, Oak Point Elementary; Cynthia Poe, Chilhowie Middle; Tammy Carter, Northwood High; and Tara Galliher, Northwood Middle.
Last year’s Smyth County and Region 7 Teacher of the Year, Chrystle Gates, addressed the group about her past year.
“What an honor it is to be nominated by your peers to represent your school system,” said the fine arts teacher from Chilhowie Elementary School. She encouraged teachers so honored to be proud of what they do and “take the opportunity to be a voice for all teachers.”
Gates said she was honored and humbled to be chosen for the regional recognition and when she went to Richmond during the competition, “It was my opportunity to speak up and I took it!” She encourages other teachers to speak up and spread the word about the learning taking place in their classrooms, about the students and their achievements.
Teachers returned to their classrooms last Thursday and tomorrow will welcome their students for the 2018-19 school year.