Thoene’s hands-on style creates fun environment in shop class

Shop teacher Brandon Thoene uses a torch to demonstrate a burnt wood finish. This year, Thoene teaches Intro STS Woods, Intro STS Construction Trade, 7th Woods, 8th Welding, Welding 1 and 2 and Intro STS Welding. (Aubrie Pehrson)

Brandon Thoene, the 7-12 shop teacher, might be new to Yutan, but he is not new to teaching.

Thoene just came from Ralston, where he taught for nine years, and Schuyler, where he taught for four years, but his journey to becoming a shop teacher started much earlier. Growing up, his mom had an in-home daycare and his dad was an electrician. 

“I was always around kids, always around young people,” Thoene said. “But I also enjoyed working with tools and my hands. So [being a shop teacher] is kind of like an in-between, I suppose.”

 After graduating high school from Ralston, Thoene attended the University of Nebraska-Omaha and then transferred to Metropolitan Community College. Then, he went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, finished up his classes and graduated from there in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in teaching.

Thoene didn’t originally plan on being a shop teacher, however. 

“For college… I thought I would do some engineering stuff. I really kind of didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Thoene said. “I was considering not finishing going to school. And I was just going to get a job.”

After some time, Thoene changed his mind.

“I sat down to talk to my mom and she told me what she thought would be a good fit for me,” Thoene said. “Then I discovered that probably I will enjoy being a high school shop teacher.”

While this is Thoene’s 14th year teaching, this is his first year teaching at a small school, which he finds to be very different from bigger schools.

“Yutan is the smallest school I’ve been to. So the less amount of kids makes it a little bit easier,” Thoene said. “That’s probably the biggest difference.”

Like many other teachers, there are several things that inspire him to teach. One thing that inspires him is seeing more kids do things that they enjoy.

“It is now maybe more acceptable for high school students to say yes, I would like to work with my hands, I want to work in trades,” Thoene said. “Whereas maybe 15 or so years [ago]…It wasn’t the route that most people wanted to do. Maybe it wasn’t the most acceptable thing.”

Many students enjoy the “hands-on” aspect of Thoene’s classes, such as junior Derek Wacker, who is in Welding 1.

“[His teaching style is] lots of hands-on,” Wacker said. “So we’re constantly welding or cutting and then every now and then we’ll watch a video or take a test on stuff just to improve our knowledge.”

Besides allowing the students to be interactive, Wacker sees other benefits of the class.

“You can learn welding techniques early on even before welding school that could set you ahead and get you paid more down the road,” Wacker said. “Not only is [shop class] fun, it applies to the real world and gets you ahead in life.”

In order for his students to get the most out of his classes, Thoene has goals for the classroom this year.

“My goals in the classroom would be to get everything to really be organized so that… we can do things quickly,” Thoene said. “Every student that walks in can leave with some type of project and be proud of what they have done and learn how to use tools and equipment in the shop.”