Balentine, age 40 from Houston, TX, is a welding instructor at Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center in Houston. Balentine joined the TWSTC faculty in the summer of 2018. He currently teaches two phases 105—MIG/Flux and 115—Stick on Pipe to the afternoon and night classes.
Thanks for your time, Balentine. How long have you been welding?
20 years. I started as a helper at 18. My first year was when my dad started to teach me. Any free time I had was spent learning to weld. My second year is when I started production welds.
Did you go to welding school yourself?
Yes, I’m a graduate of a welding academy. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to come to Tulsa Welding School myself back in the day. If I had, I would have been here 16 hours a day! I also did welding at a community college and got my certification from a fabrication recruiting company.
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Talk us through your welding career.
My first job was with a storage tank company called Pasadena Tank Corp (now called HMT). I was first hired as a helper, and I worked hard to become a welder. I started welding in my second year. I was there for about seven years before I moved on to a company called UTLX, a railcar tank company. I was there for a couple of years working nights, and I loved it! I came to work with no traffic and went home with no traffic!
While working at UTLX, I was given the opportunity to be the lead man on nights. I enjoyed the challenge of producing railcars and helping to solve problems. I stayed for several years before moving on to a company called Elite Fabrication, which is another storage tank company.
This company was just like my first job at Pasadena, but by this point in my career, I had more experience to offer. I stayed for about six years until I was laid off due to a merger. That’s when I moved on to Tulsa Welding School.
What made you decide to go into teaching?
Actually, it just fell in my lap last year. I came into Tulsa after I got laid off at Elite. I was inquiring about the pipefitting course. There aren’t a lot of schools that offer pipefitting and I figured, as I’d been laid off, that it would be a great time to learn more. While I was talking to the enrollment rep, she took a look at my resume and my experience. She asked if I knew that they had a position open here at the school. So that’s how I came to work here.
What do you like best about teaching?
Once I started to understand how to weld, I told myself, “I can teach anyone to do this.” It’s all technique, arc and puddle. I have always taught coworkers easier, faster ways to weld. I love to teach anything that deals with welding. But seeing students go from being just “green” to becoming the Incredible Hulk. Once everything clicks, I’m there to share that moment with them. Seeing them enjoy that feeling of “I finally understand, and I know I can do this!”
Is teaching what you expected it to be?
I really love it. But, you know, I didn’t think students would vary in their passion. When I was a welding student, I loved it and always gave 100%, so I figured everybody would be on the same page, wanting to be in that booth 24/7. So to try and get to those students who haven’t yet discovered their passion for welding can be challenging. But once they start to get it and realize they can do it, that’s when it snowballs into passion. Don’t tell my wife, but I don’t like to go home if I’m here. I love this place, it’s like a playground to me.
As a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
Superman. I always wanted powers to help people and be awesome at everything.
Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
I enjoy problem-solving. Anything. Let’s talk about a problem and come up with an answer, a plan or two, or even three. It could be Plan A, Plan B, or Plan C. It’s always important to have a good backup plan in place. Take a math problem: There are many way to get a sum of 10, right? 9+1, 8+2, 5+5, 3+7. It’s the same with welding. However you get there, the end point should always be a successful weld, but how you get there is up to you. Find your own comfortable way to get there.
If you could choose to have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would that be?
God. We need to have a chat. Weird stuff just happens to me—like how I got this job—and the highs and lows of how I got to this point in my life where I’m just happy. I’ve learned that He only gives us what we can handle. Apparently God thinks I’m awesome.
You get an unexpected night off. What would you do?
I would spend time with my wife and my three daughters. We would enjoy a movie night.
What was your favorite tool of the trade when you worked in the field?
A notebook. It had all my notes and machine settings for different projects.
What was your favorite part of the welding industry when you worked in the field?
Everyday welding with my “brother” Ralph when we were at Elite. We would weld out large projects in half the time it took others.
What advice do you have for new students who may be considering attending TWS?
Stop thinking about it and enroll now! In less than a year, you will be exposed to stick welding 7018/6010 on plate and pipe, TIG on pipe, Arc gouging, MIG and Flux core. Once you graduate, we welcome you back for brush-ups if you need any help for that weld test you have coming up.
If you could tell anyone “thank you” for helping you become who you are today, who would that be?
In no particular order it would be my dad, mom, wife, sister and mother-in-Law. I am truly blessed to have a wonderful family as my support in my career.