BALLINGER — Ballinger High School Industrial Trades teacher John Burgess graduated from Ballinger High School in 1975. His instructor in Industrial Trades from his freshman year of 1971 was Curtis Trayweek. When Burgess became the new Industrial Trades teacher this year, he took over for his old shop teacher, Trayweek.
For 49 years Trayweek built the industrial arts program at Ballinger High as he taught it with pride and instilled a strong work ethic in his students. Burgess was part of the first Ballinger High Cchool class to start as freshmen and graduate four years later. There are books from the 1970 school year and on still in the classroom.
“Mr. Trayweek taught here for 49 years, he taught us to take pride in our work and to do skilled work,” said Burgess, whose mother was an educator in Ballinger and his father was a local pastor.
One of the values in the industrial trades program is that it helps students in their other classes. “A student may have problems in math but he or she comes here and sees the real-world application of the math,” Burgess said. “They see that being good in math can help you get your work done in a more efficient manner. Some of the students who struggle in academics come in here and really shine.”
The students aren’t the only ones who learn skills and lessons in his shop.
“Sometimes I learn along with the students,” Burgess said.
He learned well from his shop teacher and went on to become a home builder. He continues the same lessons today that he was taught almost 50 years ago.
“We stress work ethic,” Burgess said. “I want the kids to take the same pride in the shop that we did back in 1971.”
The program has transitioned from “shop” to “construction” and teaches three phases as Burgess describes the progression.
“We teach them Principles of Construction first and after that they take Construction 1, Construction 2 and then plumbing,” Burgess said. “It’s a comprehensive program.”
One of the tenets of Ballinger schools, as stated in an interview with BISD superintendent Jeff Butts earlier this summer, is to prepare the students for life after high school. Burgess has been working towards that goal.
“We’ve partnered with Howard College to get the kids dual credits and are continuing to build that program,” Burgess said. “We have one kid here taking electrical classes.”
Burgess says that many female students take his industrial trades classes.
“Girls tend to be more detail oriented than the boys and they will work to get it right if the details aren’t correct,” Burgess said. “It’s a great balance and I’d like to encourage more girls to come enroll in the program.”
The students begin with hand tools, not power tools.
“It teaches them craftsmanship and teaches them to appreciate being able to use the powers tools later on,” Burgess said.
The shop has project tables, hand tools from planers to saws, electrical tools, pneumatic tools, table saws, miter saws and more.
“Some of the tools were not in the best condition so we’ve repaired them and maintained them,” Burgess said as he showed me around.
The students are able to compete in the SkillsUSA events. SkillsUSA is a career and technical student organization with almost 400,000 junior high, high school and college students enrolled in training programs in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. Last year was their first year to be involved. Those that enter the competition compete as a four-person team consisting of a carpenter, plumber, mason and electrician. It’s a two-day competition held around the state.
“Eventually I’d like to get an all girls team in the competition,” Burgess said. The program evolves and continually improves every year. “We are making progress in almost every aspect of the program,” he added.
One aspect of the program that is critical is the support from the community and school
“The program is completely funded by the school right now,” Burgess said.
The program does have an advisory board and they have done projects for the community. The cost for them to do a project is the cost of the materials plus 20 percent. All proceeds go toward the program. They’ve constructed wooden structures thus far but Burgess points out, “We would love to be able to include metal buildings in addition to the wooden structures.”
They have also held fundraisers and have worked the basketball concession during the tournament to raise funds.
Burgess has carried on the tradition of craftsmanship, integrity and pride that he was taught in the industrial arts program back when he started high school in 1971. He is a worthy successor to Trayweek and is certain to continue to make the program more successful every year. Burgess says that the class continues to grow and add new challenges.
“Sometimes we encounter challenges when working on a project and have to learn to value each other’s input and work through the problem,” he said. “They learn to work as a team and conquer any challenges that arise.”
Craftsmanship and pride are important in any piece of work put forth, but craftsmanship, dedication to excellence and pride are also required to properly teach students and prepare them for the future. Burgess not only possesses those traits in abundant quantities, he also teaches them to his students. Those traits will be carried far into the future, perhaps for 49 years, when one of his former students might return and succeed him.