Tuesday, January 28, 2020
Jan. 28, 2020

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Retiree rebuilds school woodshop

Former teacher fills gap for kids at Oregon high school

The Columbian
Published:

NORTH BEND, Ore. — The day North Bend High School announced it was bringing back a woodshop class, Tyler Aaron headed for the main office.

“I was the first to sign up,” Aaron, 15, said. He stood in the school’s woodshop Tuesday morning with a grin on his face. Around him, students sanded basic jewelry boxes.

Aaron moved to North Bend from Grants Pass before beginning high school. In Grants Pass, he took a woodworking class and quickly discovered it was his bliss.

“I like using power tools,” he said, and seeing the final product. He plans a career in the wood construction industry.

But his first year at North Bend High School, there wasn’t a woods program for him. North Bend lost its woods program two years ago when the instructor left and the district couldn’t find a replacement. Aaron and his classmates would have remained without woodshop this year, too, but former Coos Bay woodshop teacher Brad Cohn decided to come out of retirement and help North Bend.

“To me, it’s a lot of fun,” Cohn said, as his woods students surrounded him, busily sanding their boxes. “I’m having fun. I like working with kids, and it’s making a difference in their lives, I think.”

Because North Bend went two years without the program, Cohn’s starting all the students as beginners, teaching them to use hand tools to build small wooden boxes. Soon, they’ll use the bigger tools: the sander, the table saw, the planer.

Then it will be time to start on final projects: boats.

As a woodworking teacher at Millicoma Middle School, Cohn taught his students to make prams, canoes or driftboats. He’ll do the same at North Bend.

“I’m going to make a boat,” Aaron said, still smiling. “Then I’m going to take it out on the river.”

The students are responsible for providing the wood and epoxy to make the boats, or any other final project.

But if the kids can’t afford the materials, Cohn finds a way to pay for them. “We work something out.”

A community member recently donated a wooden sailboat to the class. Cohn plans to have the students refurbish it and sell it as a fundraiser to buy supplies for the students that need the help.

“Every kid is going to be successful in here,” Cohn said. “I make sure of that.”

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