Sanford Regional Technical Center’s Russell Clark was recently named Maine Career and Technical Educator of the Year. COURTESY PHOTO

SANFORD – What does it take to inspire students? Kathy Sargent, the director of Sanford Regional Technical Center, will tell you it takes enthusiasm, advocacy and knowledge.

And the person with a heaping measure of all three is Russell Clark, who teaches Engineering and Architectural Design at SRTC, she said.

Clark has been honored as the Maine Career and Technical Educator of the Year for 2018. The announcement was made at the annual Association of Career and Technical Educators’ Conference in Lewiston earlier this month.

“In the five years that Russ has been a part of the SRTC staff, his program has evolved from the CADD program to Engineering and Architectural Design, with two 3-D printers and a laser cutter and engraver to allow students to bring their designs to life.,” said Sargent. “Although we have been fortunate to have the funding to bring these tools to students, Russ’s enthusiasm, advocacy and knowledge have helped to make these purchases a priority. These tools have given us the ability to “hook” students, but it is really Russ’s excitement for the field that draws students to him and has allowed Engineering and Architectural Design to become one of the most popular programs at SRTC.”

Despite the award, Clark is humble about what he does.

“I’m extremely lucky to teach at SRTC as a surprise opportunity and second career,” said Clark. “We have 20 very unique and important programs that include eight high schools. All of our instructors bring their real world job expertise to the classroom to mentor, motivate and train our students. I’m no different than any instructor in the center.”

In an email, Clark said he operates his classes as if the students are already on the job – and said they perform accordingly.

“I treat them as talented professionals and act as their supervisor,” said Clark.“They respond to this atmosphere with hard work and a feeling of pride. They seem to love this and thrive.”

Clark pointed out that SRTC is a resource for southern Maine.

“We help provide the skilled labor and college students that Maine needs,” he said. “Maine is desperate for highly trained, skilled labor and has over 5,000 STEM-related job unfilled right now. And good luck finding a skilled electrician, welder, builder etc. today. These fields have become extremely technical and we are training students to fill these demanding and high paying jobs.”

There are rewards for the teacher, as well as the student.

“It’s exciting to use my background and prior experiences as an aero engineer, military pilot from Pease Air Force Base and Delta airline pilot to help prepare these young men and women for the challenges that they will soon be facing on the job or in college,” he said.

Sargent said Clark is always looking for ways to bring new opportunities to his students and to the school.

“He was instrumental in bringing the additive manufacturing contest to Skills USA, Maine this year and had students compete at the national level this summer,” Sargent said. “Russ sees the future of additive manufacturing and helps students to imagine the connections between this science and their other interests such as construction, medicine and engineering. When students come to visit this program, their eyes light up when they consider that they could design the next generation of prosthetics or lead the way in a completely different form of construction. Russ sees the potential in every student and encourages them to explore their interests through his program; he can often be heard praising the most recent design by one of his students.”

Sargent said students now have the option to earn 15 college credits with the engineering and design program through York County Community College. She said Clark is also extremely proud that his students have successfully passed the SolidWorks Mechanical Design Exam at the associate level routinely for two years.

“He often remarks that his goal is to make a program that is among the best in the state for the benefit of the students and the school as a whole,” Sargent said.

“I enjoy pushing my program hard, with advanced software, cutting edge equipment, advanced certifications and college credits,” said Clark. “This is only possible with the support of our Director, Kathy Sargent, who always listens and fights for our school. We have the finest staff and best equipped technical center in the entire state right here in southern Maine. I hope that the public is aware of this. I’m simply a very small part of an amazing school.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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