Back to School: Tradition of Excellence

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This article is from Issue 4 of Woodcraft Magazine.

A New Venture

Have you ever noticed that the newsletters of most woodworking clubs and guilds have something in common? More than a few of them seem to have a universal theme: reporting stories of contribution that relate to woodworking education. Some of the articles are about individual or group donations in the form of supplies, time, instruction, coaching, toy projects, demonstrations and tools; while others offer examples of sophisticated competitions, shows and contests. I’m not certain what would compel so many woodworkers and woodworking organizations to devote invaluable resources to these efforts, but I suspect it has something to do with taking pride in their skill and wanting to pass down the elements of a culture from generation to generation. 

All too often, these types of efforts go, if not unobserved, unrewarded. In classrooms and competitions across the country, recognition of excellence typically exists in the form of a prize for the exhibition of a woodworking project involving excellence in both vision and fortitude. But, as significant as that destination is, the navigation it took to achieve that prize is substantial. No less substantial, of course, is the labor contributed to the defeated, unrewarded entry.

Does one of your fellow woodworkers offer notable ideas? Perhaps one student encourages others or stays after class to help clean up. Maybe someone helped develop a “Santa’s Toy Shop” promotion for your community, or monitors safety for everyone. These are the types of elements and culture we recognize as part of the woodworking tradition and want to ensure that acknowledgment follows achievement.

Bob Spencer, Woodcraft director of education, explains the basics of a simple birdhouse project to a group of students.

Promoting excellence 

This philosophy has everything to do with an exciting new venture titled Tradition of Excellence. Craig Conrad, a woodworking teacher at the High School in Craig, Colo., planted an idea in his classroom several years ago. As a student in Conrad’s woodworking class, exhibit outstanding character and you will be rewarded.

“I am thrilled that there are woodworking companies who want to take our recognition program to the next level,” he said. “These kids need to know that all of their efforts, not just their level of expertise, are important.”

Bessey Tools, Diamond Machining Technology, Inc. (DMT), Rikon Power Tools, Teknatool International, Woodcraft Magazine and Woodcraft Supply Corp. have formed an alliance to recognize and promote woodworking groups and individuals for excellence in woodworking. The program – launched this May – is based solely on recommendations from woodworking enthusiasts. Nomination forms and complete program instructions can be found on the Woodworking Teacher’s Network Web site, woodworkingteachers.com. 

Bob Spencer, Woodcraft Supply Corp.’s education director is eager to get started. 

“We want to acknowledge all woodworkers who make a commitment to their community, maintain an outstanding work ethic and take ownership of safety or shop maintenance tasks. I’ve been overwhelmed with stories of woodworkers who share their time to make children’s toys during Christmas for their communities, and of those who help their classmates and stay after class to help instructors clean up or assist in maintaining tools. It’s very rewarding to be in a position to recognize these types of positive character efforts.”

More than making sawdust

The traditions associated with woodworking excellence aren’t just about mastering the operation of a tool, reading project plans or developing a skill set; they’re also about listening, as a volunteer, while 20 or more fifth-graders hammer nails into donated birdhouses, or participate in turning Freedom Pens to be delivered to American servicemen and women overseas. 

“It is a pleasure to participate in a program where we can have such a positive influence,” says Bob Siemann, national account manager of Bessey Tools-North America. “There is no doubt that achieving excellence is a great challenge and a part of our profession. However, cultivating our craft includes encouraging an enthusiastic, optimistic and ethical attitude and rewarding those whose performance exemplifies that.”

“Woodworking instructors have one benefit that the majority of educators do not,” said Steve Mangano, president of Rikon Power Tools. “Students in a woodworking course are willing participants. They can pursue their legitimate interests in these classes and we can use our capabilities to make a difference.” 

“Teknatool International is proud to sponsor this program recognizing woodworking enthusiasts,” said Anthea McQuoid, marketing manager. “It’s exciting to be a part of this great initiative. Celebrating and honoring those woodworkers who demonstrate exceptional character, while they passionately pursue their craft, is such a worthwhile cause. Encouragement and support at the grassroots level is vital, and this program will recognize the unsung heroes and bring them to the forefront for a well-deserved bow.” 

How it works

The Tradition of Excellence Program will recognize woodworking individuals who exemplify outstanding commitment, achievement, service, ownership and ethical behavior in woodworking categories of craftsmanship, safety, shop maintenance, work ethic, community service and education. Interested woodworkers should go to the Woodworking Teacher’s Network Web site, navigate to the Tradition of Excellence page and submit a nomination form. 

Each month, 20 winners will be chosen and will receive a Tradition of Excellence T-shirt, a letter of congratulations, and a certificate of recognition. The nominators of the monthly winners will each receive a Tradition of Excellence polo shirt and a press packet for the local media. 

Each year in May, one student will be chosen as the winner of the year. The selected recipient and one parent (if the winner is under 18), as well as that recipient’s woodworking nominator, will be provided round-trip airfare and accommodations to attend Woodcraft’s annual sales conference. The recipient and the nominator will be honored during a formal ceremony, at which time they’ll be presented with awards from all of the corporate sponsors.

“We want to help provide incentives that promote growth and opportunity for woodworking classrooms and community endeavors,” says Dan Ekberg, DMT’s vice president of sales. “We’re all interested in revitalizing woodworking programs and cultures, and Tradition of Excellence is an example of progress toward reaching that goal.” 

When a piece of wood is held in the hands of a craftsman, a unique condition occurs: It is transformed with imagination, skill and design into a piece of art. It is our hope that we can assist in building the foundation for a commitment to this Tradition of Excellence.

Mary Ann Moberg

For the past year, Mary Ann Moberg has served as the Education Coordinator at Woodcraft Supply Corp. She is a novice woodworker and looks forward to taking full advantage of all of the expertise and encouragement that her coworkers offer.

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