Faculty Appreciation Month – Meet Joseph Sewell

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Joseph, 47, from Phoenix, AZ, is the lead HVAC & electrical instructor at Tulsa Welding School, Dallas Metro campus. Joseph is one of the original instructors from when the campus opened last year.

So, you’re an OG at Tulsa Welding School, Dallas Metro?

I guess so. I’ve been here since before they opened. I started at the end of June 2023. We had our first class start in August 2023, and they just graduated in March, almost four weeks ago. It’s Finals week again, so we’ve actually got another graduation class going out on Thursday.

How long have you worked in the electrical & HVAC field, Joseph?

I went to HVAC school in 1998. My passion has always been cars and engines, so right after HVAC school I also went to automotive school. I did both trades for a while. In fact. my dad and I owned an auto mechanic shop for about seven years. But I’d say I have about 10 years in the HVAC and electrical field. I worked at a unique company in Phoenix that allowed me to get experience in both fields – and in commercial and residential too. But I’ve now been teaching for a while.

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Really? How long have you been teaching?

Since 2012. I started at a technical institute in Las Vegas in 2012, and in 2014 I moved to The Refrigeration School (RSI) in Phoenix, Arizona. I was there until 2017, when I moved back to Las Vegas for family reasons. I taught at an advanced training institute there until 2022. I came to Dallas specifically to work at TWS, but the campus wasn’t open yet. So, I ended up teaching at a competitor school for about a year until they invited me to come over. I loved working for StrataTech [TWS & RSI parent company] when I was at RSI, so it was an easy decision for me to come over to Tulsa Welding School, here in the Dallas Metro.

How did you first get into teaching in 2012?

I got thrown into it by accident. I actually started teaching automotive and discovered I really loved it. My dad got a job as Director of Training at a school in Las Vegas that didn’t have an automotive program. He asked me to help him develop a curriculum. So, I did that, then one thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was in a classroom teaching! I taught both automotive and HVAC at that school. I’ve been teaching ever since. I love it. I never wanted to do it, but when I got into it, I discovered I loved it. When I started out, my dad told me, “Remember those teachers that you liked? Be like them. Don’t be like the teachers you didn’t like.” I’d never even thought about that, but it worked. At first, I was scared. I had to speak up loudly so my students could hear me over the noise of my own knees knocking! 

How did you get over that fear? And what do you like best about teaching now?

I realized that students are just people who want to know more about the field that I enjoyed. The more I thought about that, the easier it became. The more I saw those ‘aha moments’, the moments when students got it, the more I enjoyed it. When they start the phase, the class, I give them a list of the finals on the very first day. They say, “Oh, I’ll never be able to do that!”…which is why I give it to them. Then when Finals week rolls around and they do it, I get to say, “I told you that you could do it!” That’s why I do it. You can see the moment when the lightbulb comes on and now they’re interested. That’s when I know that they’re going to go out into the world and do something that betters their life. 

As a boy, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

When they asked me what I wanted to do out of high school, I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I knew where I was going. My dad being military, my grandpa being military, my uncle being military, my cousin being military…I knew where I was going. And so, at 17, I joined the United States Navy. I was in the Navy for almost four years. I got out a little early, but it was not a decision that I’d make again. If I had the chance, I would have stayed in the Navy rather than leave. It taught me a lot.

Thank you, Joseph for your contributions to TWS!