Socorro students are welders in the making

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Socorro High School students are creating masterpieces in the welding elective class taught by Mike Gaines. Now, since July, they have their own place to create in.

Photos by Lindsey Padilla/El Defensor Chieftain: Freshman Garrett Jacobs uses his welding skills on a piece of metal in Gaines’ class. Jacobs also has had previous welding experience prior to taking the class.

The new shop is the nicest Gains has ever had to work with, he said. He was able to buy new equipment and take the old equipment and upgrade it to make it look like new.

“We had to start from scratch. Every workstation that is in the shop the students and I were able to construct them ourselves,” Gaines said.

There has been an increase of students in his classes from last year. In previous years, the class didn’t have a shop and was held in the shed, cafeteria and special education classroom. For the new welding shop, students built the work stations, welding booths, bookshelves in the classrooms, tables and tool cabinets, he said.

Students are working on projects to improve their skills, which they can continue to use once they graduate from high school. In class, Gaines teaches students to go beyond basic welding. He has students working on torch metal art, name plates for teachers and livestock feeders.

In the fall, students learn basic welding skills that then prepare them for the spring when they build projects, he said.

Gaines said his students are learning cutting skills with a torch, stick welding, metal inert gas welding, plasma cutting, learning how to design projects, working safely, working together, measurements and drawing plans. The students are also putting their math skills to use, he said.

“I thought it would help me out,” said sophomore Jacob Romero. “That way if I wanted to make anything it would be easier. I love welding things, it’s fun to put stuff together and watch your stuff build up all the way.”

With the skills the students learn, by the end of the course, they can be certified through the American Welding Society, he said. Gaines would like to see the class serve as a dual credit for students to receive both high school and college credit for the course. He also would like to create a night class for the community with 17 or 18 adults at a time. For 11 years, Gaines taught a night class in Ruidoso for adults and it was very successful, he said. Another goal is he would like more equipment to expand his work stations.

“The school has the facility, we can offer neat stuff for adults,” Gaines said.

He has three welding periods with 61 students all together, though he would prefer to teach four or five classes to split the kids up in smaller groups. With projects it gets crowded, he said. He would like to have 12 to 13 students in each of his classes, that way colleges can allow him to do the elective as a dual credit course, he said.

“I am a certified welder, and I know where to take them (the students) to get certified at the Doña Ana Community College in Las Cruces or the Eastern New Mexico University program in Roswell,” Gaines said.

Sophomore Jeremy Gallegos said he has been welding “all his life,” and thought it would be a good class to take, he said.

“I get to use the skills I know and get good grades in this class,” Gallegos said.

“We are emerging in years past when I was in high school,” Gaines said. “We didn’t have the materials to weld on, we didn’t have the golden opportunity.”

Gaines said his students are hands-on learners. In Welding I they learn introduction skills and in Welding II they are prepared for advanced skills with projects. He wants to apply for a Carl Perkins grant for the course to go toward additional equipment and tools, he said. Gaines would also like to expand the class to the community. Students would create gates, feeders, ATV trailers, attachments and arts for people in the community, he said. And then he would like to have a field trip and take students to install them, he said.

“I like watching kids gain confidence through skills; they grow up and can use it as a career.” Gaines said.

One of the projects by welding students at Socorro High School is making name plates for teachers to place on their desks.

Students in the class also attend welding competitions held on Saturdays. Gains takes a group of students to compete in Truth or Consequences, Las Cruces, Moriarty or Roswell.

Gaines has been a welding teacher for 32 years, and this is his second year teaching welding at Socorro High School. In previous years, he taught welding classes in Ruidoso, Carrizozo and Mescalero. He was raised in Socorro and graduated from Socorro High School in 1975. He graduated from college in 1980 and it took him 30 years to come back, he said.

“We have good kids here that are competitive. Some can get jobs at the local level,” Gaines said. “I want it to be the best job I have done at the school in my teaching career; this is my home.”