Windsor Middle School shop teacher Alicia Gradisar named teacher of the year by Colorado Technology Education Association
October 29, 2016
Alicia Gradisar is such a cool teacher that hugging her goodbye after class isn't lame, even for 8th-graders.
Gradisar was named shop teacher of the year by the Colorado Technology Education Association. She has been teaching shop for 28 years, and for the last 26 has taught at Windsor Middle School.
Gradisar's signature work apron is covered in decorative pins: Puns, Star Wars jokes and life advice like, "Kill your TV" and "Your place is here."
Mostly, Gradisar is out in the shop or in a computer lab teaching drafting classes. Her office exists only to house decades of both treasures and junk: broken parts, gifts from students and of course Veronica — her lamp with ceramic legs for the base.
“What other job lets me be such a goof ball?”Alicia Gradisar
"She's the best," 13-year-old Trevor Davis said from Gradisar's manufacturing class Wednesday morning. "She makes us follow the rules but she's fun and is always making us laugh."
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Manufacturing is an eighth-grade level shop class. Currently, the students are designing and building prototypes of products they will sell at Christmastime. Gradisar roamed from group to group giving advice about the prototypes: A basketball hoop game, a portable marble game, Christmas decorations and more.
One group of five girls created a cell phone charging station: an Etsy-store worthy wooden easel-like stand with customizable laser carving. The girls figured that a comfortable profit margin would mean selling the stands for $14.
The class is split almost evenly between girls and boys, something Gradisar said was certainly not the case when she was in shop classes in school.
"I was the only girl in my high school shop class," she said.
Her teacher wasn't receptive to having a girl in the class. Until then, Gradisar wasn't raised around the idea that building and power tools were only for men. Her father bought her first table saw when she was 13, and she had been using a hammer since she was a small child.
Her teacher wouldn't let Gradisar use some of the tools he let classmates use. He once destroyed one of her projects by kicking it across the room because she hadn't constructed it correctly.
"He's probably why I stopped," Gradisar said.
When Gradisar started at Colorado State University she chose to major in Psychology. She was able to take a woodworking class as an elective, where she refocused on her passion.
"I finished a project and the teacher asked me, 'What is your major again? You should probably change it," she said. "So I did."
Gradisar graduated CSU with an Industrial Science and Technology Education.
Gradisar teaches five classes, ranging from building to using computer programs to design 3D printed parts.
For someone with a "kill your TV" pin, she's up-to-date on the latest technology.
As part of the award, Gradisar received a $500 grant to attend the International Technology and Engineering Education Association conference in March, to learn and share ideas with other teachers across the world.
She takes her job seriously, but never too seriously. "What other job lets me be such a goof ball?" she said.