Turlock High School welding teacher Chad Russell has the goal of educating and empowering his students through agriculture. His passion has created a loyal following of students who look to glean from him not only welding techniques, but life advice.
Russell was recognized for his achievements on Monday by Congressman Jeff Denham in the company of his family, Turlock Unified Superintendent Sonny DaMarto, TUSD board members, fellow teachers, and students at a celebratory party. A recent recipient of the Yosemite Regional Occupation Teacher of the Year award from the Stanislaus County Board of Education, Russell’s accomplishments are lengthy and the gathering was an all around acknowledgment of his devotion to his trade and his students. The recognition was the end result of a conversation Superintendent DaMarto held with Denham’s representatives last spring. Russell was awarded a copy of the congressional record about his accomplishments that Congressman Denham presented to Congress.
Russell’s efforts have not only caught the eye of other teachers and government leaders, but most importantly his students. According to a group of young men who attended the party to honor their favorite teacher, Russell has a direct teaching style and is selflessly devoted to his students.
“I was a nobody, doing nothing with my life and Mr. Russell changed that. He has given me a career path,” said Chuy Cervantez, a senior who now plans to pursue a career in welding after high school.
Russell has secured University of California approval for several agriculture courses at THS helping facilitate professional paths for his students, whether that is an immediate career in welding or a college degree. Russell has forged relationships in the surrounding agriculture community which has afforded his students the ability to work on real world projects. His students are sought after for welding jobs due to the reputation Russell has built around the quality of his students’ workmanship.
“Everyone knows the project will be done and in good quality,” said Trevor Cook, a THS senior. His classmate Trey Smith, who won the state fair’s highest honors for his project last year, added that Russell holds the students to a standard of functionality.
“Other schools' projects will fall apart when tested, but Russell makes sure that our projects actually work and can function,” said Smith.
When he is not teaching students, Russell serves as the chair of the THS Agriculture Department and had his hand in the department’s recent expansion from two to five teachers. His long term plans include continuing to build the THS Ag Department into one of the premier programs in California and personally pursuing a master’s degree in agriculture.