Teacher Tuesday: Ed Walton

 Approximately an hour east of the capital in central Illinois is the largest city in the country seat of the state, the historical city of Decatur. There, at Eisenhower and MacArthur High School, Mr. Ed Walton is the Industrial Technology Instructor.

Mr. Walton teaches Construction Trades and is in his fourth year of teaching this program. The program is fairly new to the district, Mr. Walton said the focus of his program is not only teach his students skills related to constructing a house but exposing his students to networking opportunities for when they graduate. Mr. Walton values the importance of hard work. He began his journey towards his construction career after he served in the military as a young adult, from there he worked various jobs including, a machinist, a truck driver, and owning a painting and construction business that he still runs today. But even with his impressive career background Mr. Walton says, "by far the best career that I have ever had, and I don't even like to use the word job, but teaching for me is really the best job I have ever had. I don't see what I do as a job, I see it more as a mission and I feel like I am paying it forward but also paying it back to Larry Sweeny who was my Machine II instructor at the vocational center when I was in high school, he actually helped me get my first job as a machinist."

Ed's construction program is partnered with Habitat for Humanity, throughout the course his students tackle the project of building a house, the materials they need for building this project are provided by the organization. This gives students hands-on experience, allowing them to go to a jobsite and execute the knowledge and skills they are learning in the classroom. In addition to partnering with Habitat for Humanity, Mr. Walton also partners with the Building Trades Council, which includes members of various labor unions; carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, and the list goes on! He invites these skilled professionals to come talk to his students and network for the opportunity to be in the apprenticeship program to further their career once they leave his program.

With job opportunities in the trades at all all-time high, Mr. Walton is an advocate for promoting CTE programs and career readiness beyond the typical college education, such as our OSHA 10-Hour Construction Course which provides the skills that give his students a step up from their peers. In his class he tells the story that even though he did not complete his high school education he was able to make a creditable career out of his skills and passion for his trade. Mr. Walton shared that his school district qualifies for 100% free and reduced lunch. One of his main goals as an instructor and mentor is to guide his students towards a better life, as Mr. Walton said, "for me the passion is to break that cycle of welfare and turn it into workfare."

When campuses closed last spring due to COVID-19, that disrupted the momentum of his program. Their house project deadline had to be pushed back and virtual learning did not provide the same experience as hands-on. Although his district is completely virtual, following proper Covid-19 guidelines and procedures, his classes do get to meet twice a week on the jobsite to continue working on their house with Habitat for Humanity. Mr. Ed Walton said, "the construction industry has not shut down, I can't shut down either because if I can't keep these students moving forward then I can't push them out into the industry."

Mr. Walton is very family oriented and loves spending time with his grandchildren, even while on the job! On his days off from teaching he is working on his construction business, sometimes his grandchildren assist him on jobs, his oldest grandson enjoys doing electrical work and his granddaughter enjoys doing tilework. Another fun activity he plans to do with his family starting this spring is bee keeping!

Mr. Walton is an admirable educator, and his devotion to his student's success does not go unnoticed. A word of advice he shares to his students that can be valued by all, "I tell them I want to do all that I can do to help you become successful, but if you don't want it more than I do it's not going to happen." 

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