Marie, from New Orleans, LA, is a welding instructor at the Tulsa Welding School & Technology Center in Houston. Marie joined the TWSTC faculty three years ago. Houston has been home to her for about seven years.
Thanks for your time, Marie. How long have you been welding?
About 16 years. I’ll be honest with you: I first learned how to solder, weld, fabricate and read blueprints while I was incarcerated in federal prison, and it saved my life. I took on the trade and it totally changed my whole way of thinking. It gave me something to believe in, to believe that just because I did something wrong—committed a felony—at the age of 18, that I didn’t have to pay for it for the rest of my life. It showed me that I could actually be successful! My sister’s an attorney, and I made more money than her!
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Have You Considered a Career in Welding or HVAC?
Fill out the form to recieve a no obligation info packet.
I used to volunteer at a trade school. I’ve taught workout classes, things like that. I just knew it was something I needed to try. I got tired of working. It had no meaning. The money was good, but it just didn’t complete me. This is the reason why I teach. It took a lot for a man in that prison environment to take me under his wing and teach me something that would change my life, essentially feed me better than what I was feeding myself illegally. For me welding is not about the money. I can make as much money as I want, but that’s not fulfilling, that’s not completion. Teaching is heaven to me. I have a purpose. I can help change peoples’ lives, people who may feel they have nowhere else to turn.
Tell us a little about your welding career.
I worked in factories, fabricating things. Before I came to teach, I was doing structural welding, pipe welding and tank welding, and I actually got my associate degree in Welding Technology. Later, I found myself always doing reworks when I was on a jobsite. Redoing something that someone else had messed up.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an attorney! That’s crazy, but I honestly did, though. I wanted to be a voice for the people.
What do you like best about teaching?
I like helping people find a solution, being part of the solution and not the problem. I like helping people find the answers to what they’re searching for. I like helping them learn something that could potentially change their lives. A lot of people come to this school looking for an answer. Not everyone is good with bookwork. A lot of people are just good with their hands, so welding can be their answer.
Welding can take you anywhere in the world. Helping people see their way through it is just remarkable. When they get that first job, or even when the light clicks on and they realize what you’re saying to them and they start understanding the language of how metal works—it’s awesome. It’s like talking with someone who speaks another language, and you’ve now found a line of communication. It’s so rewarding.
Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
I like to do things with my hands, not just welding. I knit. I crochet. I like to take something, put it together and create. I have that vision. I actually just got through building a food truck. I park it here at the school. I custom built it from a utility trailer. Until I brought the food truck around, I guess people here didn’t know I love to cook! I’m actually a pretty boring person, but I do love to read and try new things.
If you could choose to have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would that be?
I have to say my great, great grandmother Edna Owens. I grew up with her, as the only girl in my generation. She lived to 107 and died about 20 years ago. She was blind because she tried to have a cataract removed. I would just sit and listen. She taught me patience and gave me so much wisdom. She taught me that if you want something to be better, you have to do something about it. She motivated me that when you fall down and come up short, get up and keep on going. How have you failed if you’re still trying? She was awesome!
Do you have family, Marie?
I’m single and I have one child, Anjayl. She’s a handful! She’s 22 and is a model.
If you weren’t a teacher and could do anything, what would you do?
I would be a counselor or a youth motivator, although I get to do that here every day, too. I get my input on how to better the world! Teaching is not just about teaching the skills; it’s teaching people about life too. It’s not a high-paying job financially, but the gifts you get from doing this are priceless.
You get an unexpected day off, what would you do?
Honestly, I’d take a shower and just sit on the couch, watch Netflix, TV whatever…just relax! Maybe I’d go get my feet done or something!
What was your favorite tool of the trade when you worked in the field?
My hands. I could do everything with them. They have made me so much.
What was your favorite part of the welding industry when you worked in the field?
In terms of welding process, I really enjoyed TIG and 7018 combo pipe. But my favorite kind of work, I’d say, were the reworks while I was doing structural welding. I got paid more and I was repairing things that were essentially messed up, bringing them back to life.
What advice do you have for new students who may be considering attending TWS?
Patience, integrity, and hard work will get you wherever it is you need to go in life. That’s not saying it’s going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it in the end. If you possess those three things, I don’t see a goal that is unobtainable.
If you could tell anyone “thank you” for helping you become who you are today who would that be?
I’d thank my Aunt Risé, my mom’s twin, for talking me out of going to barber school a few years ago! I love to do hair. At the time, I wanted a welding job that paid a lot, but they said I needed a degree for it. I thought, “What could they teach me in welding school? I already know how to weld! I’ll just go to barber school instead!” But Aunt Risé talked me out of it and I got my Welding Technology degree instead.