Faculty Connections – Meet Dale Fields

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Dale, 56, was born in California, but now calls Claremore, OK, home. Dale joined Tulsa Welding School as a welding instructor in February 2021, but he graduated from our welding school back in 1990.

Thanks for your time, Dale. How long have you been welding, and what did you do before teaching?

I’ve been welding since I came to this school as a student in 1990, so 31 years. After graduating TWS, I went to work for a field shop. We traveled and installed refrigeration units at Tysons’ plants. After about seven months I quit that and did a little turnaround job building a gas separator for an offshore oil rig. From there I went to work in a heat transfer shop in Tulsa for almost seven years. After that I went out on my own as a sole proprietor doing piece work, mostly for the oil and gas industry, for about 10 years.

In 2007 I hit the road again. I worked in refineries and chemical plants all over the United States and overseas. In 2014, I started in working quality control and in 2015 I got my CWI [Certified Welding Inspector] certification. I was QC manager for field service for Inserv through 2017, then I went back to doing my own thing again at the start of 2018.

What made you decide to go into teaching this year?

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To be honest, COVID made 2020 pretty slow with just a few field jobs, so I needed to look at something different. I’ve always had a teaching attitude, whether I was inspecting or welding. When I was welding, if there was a new welder who was having difficulties, I’d show him how I’d do it. When I was inspecting, I’d tell them and show them what I was looking for from them. There were two sides to that; first they’d know they had an inspector who knew their stuff, and second, I’d get what I was looking for from them!

Did you ever think you’d be back at TWS as an instructor while you were here as a student?

No, that was never in my mind. I’m not real comfortable in front of a bunch of people, I’m more of a one-on-one type of person, that’s really my comfort zone. But I have overcome that in the past few months. 

How are you dealing with that, teaching a group?

I am getting used to it; even out in the workforce I’d get in front of a group to give safety meetings and such. So, it’s not new for me. As long as I’m prepared and have everything planned ahead of time, I’m good. Plus, a lot of our time as instructors is one-on-one in the booth, helping the students hands-on.

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

I wanted to be a rancher. I did work on the ranch for a little bit, maybe six months, out in Colorado when I got out of the Army.

When did you join the Army?

I was 19 when I joined up. I was in the Army for four years. This was before I went to Tulsa. I was 25 when I came to TWS.

Thank you for your service. It’s been just a few months, but what do you like best about teaching?

When someone’s having real trouble and I’m talking them through a weld, I really enjoy that “aha” moment when they get it. If I sub for another teacher and a student that I don’t know well comes up to me to show me the weld that I helped them conquer, that’s nice too.

Is teaching something you intend to stick with?

Yes, I believe so. It’s the easiest job I’ve ever had! It’s also real gratifying. I can still do side projects and stuff if I want to, but I think I’ll stick with this until I retire. It’s a nice way to ease towards retirement.

Tell us something most people won’t know about you.

I’m a pretty transparent guy, but I do like working on cars. I have an old ’72 Dodge Charger that I enjoy messing around with. People might not know that.

If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

Probably Jesus. I’d like the opportunity to look him in the eye and get a voice and have him to talk to me.      

Tell us a little about your family Dale.

My beautiful bride and I have been married for 27 years. We have three boys who are all in the military. Two are in the Air Force and my middle son is crew chief on a Black Hawk helicopter with the National Guard. When I was traveling, my wife and kids always came with me. We homeschooled the kids.

What was your favorite tool when you were out in the field?

What comes to my mind, although it sounds kind of self-gratifying, but it’s not meant that way, is my ingenuity. If we came up against a problem, I always seemed to be able to come up with answers that were kind of out of the box. That’s an important part of welding: troubleshooting, solving problems, finding a way. 

What was your favorite part of being in the field for 30 years?

I really enjoyed being a sole proprietor, having my own business. I probably enjoyed that the most because of the flexibility. Sometimes I could get a job and work 30 hours straight just to get the job done. But then I would have all this time off to spend with my wife and kids. I could help homeschool the kids, give my wife a break. The boys didn’t like that; when mom was teaching, they might get out of school at Noon or 1pm, but when I was teaching, it was more like 7pm!

If you weren’t a teacher and could do anything with your time, what would you do?

If I won the lottery and didn’t work, I’d have a big shop, a big hobby room. Everything from welding and metalwork, to woodwork, to electronics, to alternative energy. I kind of dabble in everything. I built my house in 2000 and did most of the work myself.

If you got an unexpected afternoon off from school, what would you do with that time?

I work a lot of hours, so what I’d probably do is this. I wouldn’t tell my wife, I would probably just sneak home, tell her I got fired or something, and take her out to lunch or dinner. Just to see if I couldn’t get a reaction from her! After 27 years, it takes a lot to get a reaction!

If you were to tell someone “Thank You” for helping you become you, who would it be and why?

I would say my mom. My dad was a truck driver, and he was gone most of our childhood. He’d be back every other weekend, so my mom really raised us. She wasn’t afraid to do anything. She built a front porch when we were little kids! Mom wasn’t a carpenter; she was a housewife! She would turn her hand to everything.

What’s the best piece of advice you have for new students who are just starting out?

There is no substitute for hard work. You can have all the natural talent in the world, but there really is no substitute for hard work.

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