Watch CBS News

Pleasant Hill middle school teacher revives woodshop class for new generation

Pleasant Hill teacher revives woodshop class at middle school
Pleasant Hill teacher revives woodshop class at middle school 03:40

Woodshop classes have disappeared from some schools, but one Pleasant Hill middle school teacher is reintroducing the curriculum to a new generation of students.

When 7th graders file into Nicole Manasewitsch's woodshop class, they are working with their minds and their hands.

"This is the edge router. It's pretty easy, you just go around the edge of your piece and it smooths it out," said Kyle Muller as he made wooden drink coasters.

At another desk, Autumn Kelly was polishing off a new chess board.

"I love wood working. It's really fun to be able to put these big pieces together and make something really pretty like this," she said. 

It wasn't long ago that this woodshop at Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill was in mothballs. It was closed for eight years after the previous shop teacher retired.

It was part of a larger trend to move away from industrial tech classes in California schools amid budget cuts, teacher shortages and shifting priorities.

"Just last summer this whole spot here was just filled with desks. It was being used for storage, and it was unworkable. We had no tools, everything was poached. We only had a couple of big pieces that were too heavy to move," Manasewitsch said. 

She took on the challenge of restarting the program to give kids more options.

"I feel like now is the time for these programs. There seems to be more backing, more interest. Not just district wide but beyond," Manasewitsch added. 

The biggest problem was finding a shop teacher. Manasewitsch taught English but took woodworking classes at night so she could teach shop herself.

She found skilled mentors in the community to help students with the finer points and reached out to retailers and Rotary clubs to help equip the shop with tools and safety gear.

"Hands on learning where the kids get to physically move around is a type of learning, kinesthetic learning. But, really, these are applicable skills. And not just job related but around your home, knowing how to fix things, how machines work, earning how to be safe around machines. There are science skills; there's math skills. This is STEM. We talk about improving STEM, this is exactly it, these kinds of programs," Manasewitsch said. 

Of course, safety lessons get hammered into each student before they're allowed to work the power tools.

Kyle said the skills he's learning here could help him get a job in the future.

And Autumn said it's a great way to get the mind refreshed during the school day.

"This is so different from any other class at this school. Kids love it," she said. 

Woodshop is the type of class that used to be in almost every school but got swept away. It's now making a comeback.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.