Tim, 37, from Mena, Arkansas, is a senior welding instructor at Tulsa Welding School, and he also teaches pipefitting. Tim has been with Tulsa Welding School for eleven years. He is also a graduate of TWS, having attended right out of high school in 2001. Tim has taught every phase in his time at the school.
Thanks for your time, Tim. How long have you been welding, and what did you do before teaching?
I’m going on about 20 years as a professional welder, although I’ve been welding more than 30 years! Before joining Tulsa, I did industrial piping. I worked on power houses, chemical plants, pharmaceutical plants, a paper mill—all kinds of places, but all industrial piping.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was always going to be a welder! My dad worked in the construction part of a petroleum company; he was a welder for them for a long, long time. He would have to recertify every year, so he would practice a little to make sure he was doing things the right way for them. From when I was five or six years old, he’d put one of his shirts on me, an extra welding hood, and have me out there welding with him!
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What made you decide to go into teaching in 2010?
I wanted to quit traveling, so I was looking around for permanent jobs. My sister was actually going through Tulsa Welding School as a student at the time, and she told me they were hiring instructors. I went through the TWS welding program right out of high school 20 years ago and I’d always wanted to teach. I figured it was a permanent job, something I’d always wanted to do, it would be fun, so I gave it a whirl!
11 years on and still teaching. I guess it was fun! What do you enjoy most about it?
Seeing students you’ve helped succeed come back and share their stories. I’ve been here long enough to have students who have been in the field 10 years. It’s just seeing people succeed, someone older who is changing their career, it’s fun to see them come in and progress. I get to watch them change their life. For the young kids, they now have their whole life ahead of them, knowing they’re going to make all the money. It’s nice to hear back from them about their adventures. It’s just nice to see a lot of people change their lives, and to be able to play a part in helping them change their life for the better. It’s gratifying.
What’s more gratifying? Teaching, or laying down a perfect weld on a pipe at a plant?
Both are a lot of fun. It’s just a different gratification. It is really gratifying to help someone out, but when you’re done with a big multi-million-dollar project and you see that come online knowing you did a good job and were part of it, that’s gratifying too. They’re both satisfying in different ways!
Tell us something most people won’t know about you.
Most people know I have a bunch of hobbies. I can’t think of anything that people don’t know about me… well, maybe this. It’s kind of a funny story! My high school guidance counselor tried to get my mom to talk me out of going to welding school because they didn’t think I could make it in a big city! Mena, Arkansas, is a little bit of nothing 200 miles from the big city of Tulsa. They thought I should do something closer to home. I was a quiet kid. They thought I was too timid to go off and do it, but I proved them wrong!
Little did they know! Tell us about those hobbies.
It’s a long list. I got into fly fishing a couple of years ago; I also tie flies. I raise bees; I do ham radio; I enjoy leatherwork, and from time to time I forge some knives! I also hunt and like shooting guns. It’s a lot, but I space it out through the year.
If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
My granddad on my mom’s side. I’d like to hear some of his experiences, like when he was overseas in the Korean War. It’s not something he ever really talked about. After he passed away, my grandma gave me some of his enlistment papers and orders, stuff like that. It was interesting seeing some the places he was sent. I’d like to know some of the stories that went along with those places. After getting the papers, it made me wonder about it all a little more.
What was your favorite tool when you were out in the field?
I can’t think of one other than my welding hood. I’m old-school. Out in the field, and even now, I still use a regular shaded glass, a gold foil lens like they used to use on astronauts’ helmets, rather than an auto-darkening lens.
What was your favorite part of being in the field?
I enjoyed the traveling. I saw a lot of the country. That was always a fun part of the job. I’m from a small town of 5,000 people, so getting to see the country was pretty special for a small-town boy. I made a lot of money, too!
If you weren’t a teacher and could do anything with your time, what would you do?
If I didn’t have to worry about paying bills, I’d just turn some of my hobbies into little jobs. The knife making, the leatherwork. I’d probably turn those hobbies into a little business.
If you got an unexpected afternoon off from school, what would you do with that time?
If the weather were nice, I’d take off for the river and do some fly fishing. That’s probably where I’d end up on a free afternoon.
If you were to tell someone “Thank You” for helping you become you, who would it be and why?
My parents. For keeping on me, making sure I stayed out of trouble, and for always believing in me.
What’s the best piece of advice you have for new students who are just starting out?
Be there every day and invest the time, plus any extra time you have, into it. Our Professional Welder program is only around seven and a half months long, but if you put in extra time off-shift and put in the work, you can get so much more out of it. That extra time is what makes a good student an even better student. I have seen students here from open to close, and more often than not, they are right out of the box going to work in great jobs because they put in the work.