In her journey from welding student to teacher, Courtney Moser has been no stranger to big accomplishments. From learning to weld on a scholarship at a well-known welding academy where she achieved 4.0 GPA, to working as a teacher and being recognised as the top instructor in her state, Courtney has an impressive story that we wanted to learn more about.
Here's our interview:
We'd love to learn about your journey in the world of welding. What inspired you to take up a career as a welder, and once you became a welder, what motivated you to go into teaching?
I started welding my senior year of high school. Honestly, I only took the class because it counted as my senior math credit. At the end of the class, I fell in love with welding and decided to compete in welding sculpture for Skills USA Georgia state competition.
I made a peacock that took about 5 months to complete. I won first place in the State of Georgia and received a full tuition scholarship to Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville, Florida. I went to welding school and completed the program at the top of my class with a 4.0.
Then, it was time for me to go to work! My first welding job was at Kubota Industrial Equipment in Jefferson, Georgia. I started out as a welder but after a short six months I received a promotion into jig maintenance and the fab shop. I was working twelve-hour shifts, Monday through Saturday.
I was then approached by my high school welding teacher to start teaching a night class two nights a week. About six months into teaching the night class my high school welding teacher reached out to me again for another opportunity.
He explained that Thomson High School was given $100,000.00 from Georgia Power to start a welding program and was in need of a full-time teacher. I was over the moon about this opportunity and immediately applied for the position and accepted the job.
I bought a house and moved two hours away from my family. I knew I had to follow my passion for teaching welding. It’s my third-year teaching welding and I absolutely love my career.
I read that you're teaching at high school level currently. For our readers from places where welding isn't offered in school, can you tell us a bit about the program you teach?
This is my third-year teaching and absolutely love how hands on and exciting I have made it for my students. The first semester of my class is “Industry Fundamentals and Occupational Safety”.
This is basically a safety class that also goes into job ready skills and construction career research. This class is 100% in the classroom.
Once students successfully pass this class, they are able to move onto the welding classes. Students start learning how to weld with E7018 rods on a flat plate.
As their welds improve, they are able to move on to a flat t-plate. Next students move onto vertical stringer beads and vertical weave. They then go to overhead.
After they have done all these positions with a E7018, they then move onto E6010 rods. They repeat the same process as the E7018’s. After they have completed all stick welding projects, they move on to MIG welding.
We are still a new program and we are currently not running flux core. We start out MIG welding with hardwire and they go through all the previous positions mentioned.
Next, students will begin to learn how to TIG weld mild steal and stainless steel. I would like to be able to teach aluminum TIG welding in the future but do not currently have a machine that will run AC.
This is the basic layout of my curriculum. Once students finish the intro class, they are pretty much 75% hands on and 25% in the classroom. I currently teach about 60 students a semester.
We're also very impressed by your professional accomplishments, including being recognized as the Top Welding Instructor in the state. Congratulations! Can you tell us more about this accomplishment?
This award was given to me by Tulsa Welding School. As an alumnus of the school, this was a huge accomplishment for me.
Your username on social media is "ThatFemaleWeldingTeacher". As someone working in the field, would you say that it is still relatively uncommon for women to work as welding instructors, and if so, what do you think can be done to recruit more women into these positions?
I honestly only know of one or two other female welding instructors. I’m sure there are more out there; it is just not very common to see.
I have had several female agriculture teachers reach out to me for guidance on their curriculum since it is a part of their Ag mechanic’s class. I think women make wonderful welding instructors.
We tend to pay more attention to detail and normally have more patience. I think a way for women to be recruited into teaching welding is to just find passionate female welders that are from industry to come in and teach.
Relatedly, you've also highlighted the unfair criticisms that women receive in your line of work. Some of the other female welders who we've interviewed have also shared that they've been treated unfairly. How do you respond to this unfairness without allowing it to distract from your work?
Since I am a teacher now, I do not have issues with unfair criticism on a regular basis anymore.
Students will sometimes make smart remarks but it has never really bothered me considering everything they have learned about welding comes from me.
I feel I have gained the respect of my students and because of it I do not have to deal with disrespect or rude comments like I did when I was in the welding industry.
Flash back to before I was teaching, this was a weekly event. People would make comments about how young I was and that I probably didn’t have any idea what I was doing or that females should not be in the welding industry.
I then got a promotion into the maintenance and fabrication shop and then more comments started.
“She probably just talked her way into a promotion.”
I feel this was very unfair considering I worked my butt off for that promotion and worked even harder to keep it.
At the end of the day people are going to think and say whatever they want about you to see if they can bring you down. Honestly, the way I respond to unfairness is just by being nice and focusing on my job.
I do not care what people say or think about me especially if they don’t even know me or my work ethic.
We'd also love to learn about your advice for students. As a welding teacher, you've undoubtedly noticed some common mistakes made by students and beginner welders in general. If there was one mistake that you could advise a beginner to avoid making, what would it be?
I think the most common mistake is giving up too easily.
I have students that will get worked up and frustrated and then stop welding for the rest of the class period. I have to explain that if it were easy, everyone would be a welder. It takes a lot of time and patience to get good at it.
A common mistake I see a lot by students is not asking enough questions. Your teacher is there for a reason. They should be more than willing to answer and help you with and questions or struggles you run into.
My biggest thing I tell students is to never be a “know it all”. Always be willing and eager to learn more because you never know when you will need that information.
Even being an instructor now, I am still constantly learning new and faster ways to improve my job as a teacher.
You work with many young people who are interested in joining the trades. What path would you recommend someone takes if they're leaving high school and looking to become a welder?
For my high school students, I definitely recommend for them to got to a welding school or community college before going into industry.
This allows them to develop their skills even more and the opportunity to be advanced in all the welding processes and positions that maybe their high school was unable to teach.
By going to a welding school, you are able to figure out what you are best at and what you enjoy the most before searching out a job in the industry.
Also, by being able to weld with all different processes you are a lot more valuable to a company and you should start on a higher pay scale.
Finally, how do you keep your students motivated and inspired to continue learning to weld, even when the lesson involves theory work which may be less engaging?
Sometimes it is very hard to keep all students engaged and motived in the weld shop.
This year I have started implementing in class welding competitions. Each week students get a new project to work on. They will practice this every day and then on Friday we will have a class competition to see who the best welder for this project is.
I have found this to be extremely motivational and fun for all of my students. Even the students that are not as serious about welding still enjoy it because of the competitiveness.
They work harder throughout the week to try to beat their friends on Friday in the competition. This has also helped my competition team to get use to competing against others with a time restriction.
Another way I keep students motived and inspired is by having guest speakers. I think it is very motivational for the students to hear from welders in the industry to get an inside look on how it will be if they decide to go into the welding career field.
Thank you to Courtney for answering our questions. Be sure to follow her on Instagram page.