Jarrod Stillion, left, and Tayna Letamendi cut the base of the cookbook stands they sold. The money they raised selling the stands goes back into the program. As an incentive, the students earn a portion of the money they raised.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Jarrod Stillion, left, and Tayna Letamendi cut the base of the cookbook stands they sold. The money they raised selling the stands goes back into the program. As an incentive, the students earn a portion of the money they raised.

Lessons for life

Mass production class teaches practical skills

photo

Tayna Letamendi stands with a finished version of the cookbook stand the students of the Moffat County High School woodshop sold. Letamendi sold 77 stands, which put her in the $1,000 club, something the teacher started for students who sold that amount.

— In Craig Conrad's opinion, Moffat County High School mass production teacher, school shouldn't teach just facts.

It also should prepare students for life.

His class exemplifies that philosophy. There, he not only teaches students how to make and sell woodworking projects for a profit. He also teaches them how to use that profit responsibly.

The class requires students to pick a woodworking project, carry it through the prototype stage, take and tally orders from community members and mass-produce it for sale.

From the sale, students earn $15 and the shop earns $5. The rest covers production and material costs, which can add up to $10,000.

The class is no easy pass. Or as Conrad puts it, the students "leave here in a sweat."

The consequences for making a mistake are high - just like in real life.

For instance, the ledger books where students record their sales. If a student's record contains a mathematical error, the student doesn't receive a check.

"This is real math," Conrad said. "Now math means something."

One tardy costs one sale - $15 that the student owes back to the class for not being punctual.

"You know how many tardies we have in this class?" Conrad said. "Zero."

Still, students' response to the class has been positive, Conrad said. Last year's class sold 570 hand-made message centers through the course of several days, setting a new record.

Sales were so good that Conrad finally had to ask students to stop selling.

This year, the class members pre-dsold 409 cookbook holders in three nights and plans to make 420. Students are scheduled to complete the project by March, Conrad said.

The rewards for diligence and persistence are sweet, as student Tanya Letamendi learned this year.

She sold 77 of the cookbook stands she and her classmates will produce in coming months. From her sales, she received $1,115, a space on Conrad's $1,000 club - a privilege reserved for mass-production students who make or exceed one grand in personal profit - and a place in his new book highlighting the students who've become subjects of the inspirational stories Conrad relates to students every Friday.

Letamendi went into the class with a predetermined goal: Pay for part of her college education. She said as much when approaching her clients.

Her question was simple: "How would you like to invest in my college education?"

Showing she had a reason for raising the money may have contributed to her success, she said.

She plans to lock the money she earned into a certification of deposit and let it accrue interest for two years while she pursues an associate's degree. She intends to use the money to pay for her physical therapy education at either the University of Wyoming or Regis University.

Financial responsibility is the second aspect of the mass production class - one that Conrad created a few years ago when he discovered only one member of the previous class saved any of the money they raised.

"That was a big wake up call," Conrad said.

Since then, he's brought in speakers to teach his students how to invest their money into individual retirement accounts.

The idea for the class itself arose from financial need. During the early years of Conrad's teaching career at MCHS, which has spanned across two decades, the wood shop program was in danger of closing down for lack of funds.

To rescue the program, Conrad started the mass production class, which brought in money for the program.

Through the years, Conrad has seen some individuals' names reappear on students' sales sheets.

"I want to thank the community for supporting the kids," he said.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

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