NORTH LIMA - It's one of the hottest, dirtiest places to work, but Jill Marconi said it's one of the best experiences she's ever had.
Marconi, an eighth-grade science teacher at Poland High School, spent 32 hours at Specialty Fab in North Lima as part of a new Educator in the Manufacturing Workplace program, which gave area educators the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in area manufacturing.
Marconi said she was pleasantly surprised when she arrived for her training.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Bonnie L. Hazen
Jill Marconi, an eighth-grade science teacher at Poland Middle School, explains her experiences using a torch during her last day of training at Specialty Fab in North Lima.
"I didn't expect the people to be as happy working. I thought it would be hot in there - and it was - it was difficult work, hard work. I thought they would be a little bit unhappy about what they did, but they were the nicest, happiest people that I could have asked to work with," she said.
"I am totally impressed by what I have seen. I have learned so many things that I can apply in my classroom," she said, adding that she already has four new lesson plans made from what she experienced on the job site.
Her lesson plan on potential energy, for example, will include real-world examples of potential energy types, such as magnetic, elastic and hydraulic.
She said she witnessed the use of magnetic potential energy when cranes use magnets to lift large pieces of steel; hydraulic potential energy to lift and move things; and elastic potential energy employed by cranes by way of elastic bumpers.
"That's what makes school interesting, when you bring real-world applications to your students. Making it real world for my students is key," she said.
The work being done in manufacturing is very math-oriented, she said, and will show her students the importance of learning fractions. Nearly all of the blueprints contained fractions, and the measurements have to be exact, she said.
The program is also useful because it shows other opportunities that are available for students who may choose not to pursue higher education. Marconi estimated that roughly 10 percent of her students plan to pursue a career in a field outside of those traditionally gained with a degree.
"Not all students want to go to college, and it's important for me as a teacher to know what kind of opportunities are out there for students who don't want to go to college," she said.
With the recent boom in natural gas extraction, Marconi said experienced laborers such as those employed by Specialty Fab are in high demand.
"Without the fabricators, we'd be in trouble. We don't think about it, but every time you go shopping, every time you go to church or to school, a fabricator made the structure that all of that is built on. It's the backbone of America," she said.
Marconi also pointed out a base that was being constructed for gas drilling equipment, which the workers were happy to show her.
"They took pride in what they did. They were proud of their work, and they should be," she said.
Marconi also was given instruction in welding and how to cut steel with a torch.
"It was my first time welding," she said, pointing to the two pieces of metal she joined together. "It's inconsistent; the width is inconsistent, the height is inconsistent. I suppose if I continued to work with the fellows, I could probably get the hang of it," she said.
Marconi said she learned more in the 32 hours at Specialty Fab than she did in many academic courses.
She also said she'd happily participate in the program again if given the opportunity.
"I'd probably want to see something else, now that I've seen what welders and fitters and foremen do. I'd go to a place where they did something a little bit differently.
"You want to do something that's worthwhile, and I lucked out. What I learn translates to my students," she said.
Educator in the Manufacturing Workplace is a collaborative project among Oh-Penn Interstate Region Partners, the Lawrence County School to Work, the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, Youngstown State University, Industry Partners of Lawrence and Mercer Counties and Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition.