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As part of CTE Month, I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure of visiting CTE classes District-wide. Join me on a three-part journey as I venture through three separate CTE classes to interview teachers and students. For our first stop, I met with Cameron Whatcott, Woods teacher of Timpview.

Outside Cameron Whatcott’s woodworking shop is a trove of woodwork products; a wooden replica of Thor’s Hammer, wooden models of Star Wars X-Wing and Tie-Fighter ships, a wooden chessboard, an epoxy resin art piece. One must wonder what a shop that produces a diverse collection of projects might look like, and Cameron’s woodworking class doesn’t disappoint. A Wonka-like assemblage of workbenches, mallets, drills, hardwoods, stains, saws and other woodworking articles fill the shop. The shop lived and breathed through students’ tuned-in and sprightly work; I was inspired. At the center of the action was Cameron Whatcott.

Mr. Whatcott grew up in rural Utah. He was raised on a farm. He’s worked with his hands his whole life. Cameron noted that he was a general contractor by trade, as UVU (UVSC at that time) didn’t include a secondary education program. He lived through his trade for more than 20 years before transitioning to teaching, where he now instills his well-earned and practical skills in students.

After looking over the projects in the glass display, I found myself wondering about the projects or even students of which he was most proud. “I have a lot of projects I’ve done, and as a freelance woodworking teacher, I like getting into some crazy and distinct projects,” Cameron started.

“A few years ago, we got into epoxy, which was fun, but I couldn’t pick out one specific product that I liked more than the others. All of the students craft a toolbox, but I’m as proud of the students who make epoxy tables or customized longboards as the kids who make a toolbox.”

As for the students, Cameron had another equitable response. His answer made me realize my question was inherently flawed.

“Well, all of the students are coming into this with nearly zero experience. They finish my class with something they’ve made through their efforts.

“Every project is as unique as the students. I try to treat all kids like they’re my favorite student. I really couldn’t pick out only one student if I tried. I don’t tell them who might be a favored student, so they all think they’re my favorite– that’s the beauty of it.”

Students dusted workbenches and returned woodworking materials while Cameron called out clean-up directions. Watching students prepare for the end of the day, I thought to ask what his intended end-goals were for students. What do you want your students to keep with them as they walk out of your door?

“I want students to know that they can do hard things. When students can perform challenging jobs, they leave with confidence. I like when students start this course believing they can’t accomplish the task or treating the class like it’s not worth their time, but when they wrap up a project and finally hold a tangible thing that they made, the students visibly swell up with pride.

In construction, looking back on your work is the best feeling you can have. Sharing that feeling with students is why I teach. That’s what I want them to take away from here– the self-worth that comes from creating something.”

Look forward to tomorrow’s article as I drop by the Automotive shop to chat with Provo High students Cesar and Lucas about how the Auto Mechanics courses offer opportunities and a safety net for post-graduation plans.

Spencer Tuinei
  • Communication Specialist
  • Spencer Tuinei