Sam Batman, an instructional assistant at Phoenix School of Roseburg, likes to teach students how to work with their hands. Some have never used a hammer before. Others quickly pick up the skills and take the lead.
Many of the students in Batman’s trades programs are surprised to suddenly find themselves learning to build a birdhouse or how to use power tools. Batman also teaches them that they can turn their newfound interests into a successful future.
“It feels like an awakening for them,” she said, “because some of them have been kind of, ‘I didn’t know that I was allowed to do something like this.’”
Batman has been bringing opportunities to learn about the trades to Phoenix for several years. As the school’s front office coordinator, she began organizing field trips in 2012 to the Oregon Tradeswomen’s Career Fair in Portland. She then sought grant funding from the state Bureau of Labor and Industries to organize an “Exploring the Trades” summer camp at the school in 2015.
That first year, 30 girls ages 11 to 14 spent part of their summer operating a mini excavator, constructing a fire pit and building sprinklers, among other projects.
“We tried to touch on as many trades as we could,” Batman said.
Batman has helped organize “Exploring the Trades” at the school each year since then. Around 24 students, a mix of girls and boys, have attended the camps each year, and this summer will be Batman’s fifth. The camps are part of the Expanding Horizons CTE Summer Camps organized by Douglas County Partners for Student Success and have been funded by various grants over the years.
Since that first year, Wolf Creek Job Corps students have used the camps as an opportunity to mentor the younger crowd.
“They feel like it makes their students better potential apprentices because they get some leadership,” said Batman, who spent a few years as a heavy equipment operator apprentice.
Batman’s teaching doesn’t end with the summer camps. For the past several years, she has also taught a trades class during the school year. This year, she is teaching trades classes full time, along with an after-school program. She focuses on basics and safety at first and then works to turn students into potential qualified applicants for apprenticeships.
For students who may not have the desire or means to attend a four-year university, Batman explains that the trades can offer high-wage high-demand jobs.
“I like letting our kids know that you can graduate from high school and step right into a living-wage job that is guaranteed to go up and up and up,” she said.
But she’s quick to point out that it still takes hard work and dedication.
“You have to earn it,” she said. “And you have to show ambition to want to do it.”