Q&A: Cory Martinsen, AHS CTE teacher

Cory Martinsen is a career and technical education teacher at Aberdeen High School, teaching wood tech, construction and sign making. A Class of 2001 Bobcat alum, Martinsen earned his associate degree from Grays Harbor College, his bachelor’s degree in industrial education at Central Washington University and his master’s degree in education from Grand Canyon University. He lives in Aberdeen with his fiancee, Amy Jahnke, and their dog, Bentley.

What’s the coolest piece of equipment in the shop?

While we have a lot of really nice equipment, I would say our laser engraver is the “coolest” piece of equipment we have. We can produce professional-level laser engraved projects on a variety of materials and the students really enjoy the design and production of these projects.

Do you do carpentry or woodworking outside of school? What is your favorite project?:

Occasionally I have woodworking projects I work on for friends, family or myself and have done a few side construction jobs over the years. If I had to pick a favorite project, I would have to say new construction projects. I also enjoy making custom plaques to mount a variety of wildlife.

Why is education important for students interested in getting into a trade?

The days of dropping out of school, going to work, and making a decent living are over. Employers are looking for workers who are the best qualified for the job, dependable and are willing to work. Technology is everywhere, and continues to grow at a rapid pace. The trades are becoming more technological as well and people need the proper training in order to perform and be proficient with current equipment. The combination of on-the-job-training and classroom work that many trade/tech schools and apprenticeship programs provide is a great option for students who are interested in a specific trade.

What kind of vocational training can students get in high school?

Aberdeen High School offers students a tremendous opportunity to gain exposure to a variety of vocational trades. I offer residential construction and sign making. In addition, we have an auto shop program, residential wiring/refrigeration, photography, video production, nursing, banking, business/marketing, culinary arts, art and the list goes on. Several programs are also affiliated with the Twin Harbors Skill Center, which allows students to take a preparatory class in their field of interest. I am sure I am forgetting something, but AHS offers excellent vocational programs across the board.

How has vocational education changed in your time at Aberdeen?

This is my third year teaching at AHS, and what I have noticed is there continues to be more CTE (career and technical education) class offerings every year. The Aberdeen School District really values vocational education and provides excellent support.

What changes are you working on to the curriculum?

I am trying to build a carpentry program based around residential construction. During the 2011-12 school year, my second-year wood shop class spent the second semester covering subjects in the construction field. Students were introduced to several topics such as layout, ceiling, wall and roof framing, roofing, siding, etc. We also explored job opportunities and post-secondary education/training options for students who are interested in being in the construction field for a living. We also currently have an agreement with Grays Harbor College through the Tech Prep program to earn college credit for passing my residential construction class with a B or better.

This year I have a residential construction class, and in the near future I hope to have a block class of two or more hours and possibly be affiliated with the Twin Harbors Skill Center. Students have really enjoyed learning about building, and I have enjoyed having a class dedicated to construction as well. With more time, the sky is the limit for what we can accomplish. Not every student is going to leave class wanting to be a carpenter, and that’s fine. Ultimately, I want to give students skills they can use throughout their lives. Some students will be interested in furthering their education in the construction field and maybe turn that interest into a career. At the very least, students will leave class with the skills to perform basic building, repair and maintenance tasks at home. What I learned in shop class in high school and junior high just stuck with me. Hopefully what I am teaching is sticking with my students.

What kind of training did you get for your job?

I guess my job training started during the seventh grade, when I had my first wood shop class. I continued taking wood shop classes in eighth grade and though high school. During this time, I really developed a liking for woodworking and enjoyed it tremendously. I started to accumulate my own tools and would make small projects as often as I could at home. Through college and into my first few years of teaching I was employed by McMeekin Construction and Humphrey Construction during summer and winter breaks. The knowledge I gained working for these two contractors has helped me tremendously and has given me several great tips and tricks to pass on to my students.

What advice do you give students interested in working in a trade?

I advise students to talk with people who work in a student’s field of interest. You can gain a lot of information from talking with a person who has job experience. I also encourage students to job shadow someone in a field of interest, in order to get an understanding of what that work day looks like. I also promote how important work ethic is. The opportunity to work is out there for people who are willing to work hard. Of course, I promote education as well. I tell students that you have to be willing to do something that will set you apart from everyone else. Going to school or going through training and getting that diploma, degree or certificate is important.

What’s your favorite thing about your work?

It is fun to see students produce a project they are proud of. There is a great feeling of accomplishment when you construct a project that you are proud of, and it is fun to see kids be proud of their work. I also enjoy seeing students mature, not only in regard to their building skills, but as young adults. Kids change a lot during their four years of high school. I have had several students for multiple years throughout my teaching career, and watching them make the transition from adolescents to productive young adults is fun.

As an Aberdeen alum, what was it like becoming colleagues with your old teachers?

Working at my alma mater and with several of my former teachers has been very enjoyable. At first, I was still hung up calling my former teachers and coaches Mr. and Mrs., and very quickly most pointed out that we could go on a first name basis now. Other than being in a different building, it almost feels like I never left high school at times.