Chad Laxton (second from left) at MIG welding bootcamp graduation in his blue pants
Chad Laxton grew up in Tuscumbia, Al., but the Ocoee River and wrestling brought him to Bradley County. In 2002, he became a history teacher and wrestling coach at Bradley Central High School. Now, he combines his teaching and coaching experience as the welding instructor at Cleveland State.
Along with the welding certificate classes in the Advanced Technologies Department, Mr. Laxton teaches the 40-hour MIG welding bootcamps for Workforce Development. Close to 100 students graduate from the welding bootcamps each year and earn the American Welding Society certification.
Workforce Development has partnered with City Fields and the American Job Center for more than 10 years to provide these bootcamps. Over the years, the number of bootcamps and Mr. Laxton’s involvement with the program has increased.
“Teaching welding in general is so much different than academics,” said Mr. Laxton. “It is not a knowledge base, it is a skill base. It is really more like coaching than teaching. I can tell you how to hit a curveball, but you gotta hit the ball. It’s experiential.”
Mr. Laxton grew up working on his family farm and competing in wrestling. His father was a high school teacher and wrestling coach; Mr. Laxton won four high school individual state wrestling titles in Alabama. At BCHS, the school won two state titles with Mr. Laxton as the head coach and several more when he was an assistant coach.
After high school graduation, Mr. Laxton attended Athens State University in Alabama and graduated with a bachelor’s degree. He took a few breaks to be a raft guide on the Arkansas River in Colorado and a surfer in Hawaii. He spent his summers as a raft guide on the Ocoee River. When the coach and teacher position opened at BCHS, Mr. Laxton knew this was the place for him.
In 2008, Cleveland State did not have a welding lab and the Industrial Maintenance students needed a welding class. Mr. Laxton said, “My grandfather was a welder and had a shop. I lived with him during my last few years of college; I also worked for a company that welded metal art.” Mr. Laxton became an adjunct welding instructor and taught Cleveland State students at BCHS in the evenings.
By 2016, Cleveland State had a full welding lab, and Mr. Laxton began teaching the MIG welding bootcamps for Workforce Development. A few years later he was hired as a full-time welding instructor for the college.
Mr. Laxton said, “I really enjoy how my career has advanced over time. I was able to teach high school for 20 years, then get the opportunity for my career to shift into now being a college welding instructor while also getting to teach the community through Workforce Development.”
Bre LaMountain, Cleveland State Workforce Development project coordinator, said, “Chad brings his entire personality, life experience and in-depth knowledge about welding to his students. He gives them hope, and he shows them through imparting his skill of welding, that they can believe in their own abilities to provide a stable, comfortable life for themselves with a welding career.”
In July, Workforce Development partnered with the Bradley County Justice Center to provide a welding bootcamp for selected inmates. Ms. LaMountain said, “The inmates said everyone would know they were inmates based on their blue pants on graduation day. Chad promised them he would wear his blue pants to graduation too, in solidarity, and he did. It was the most thoughtful gesture. Some of the ways he brings value to the lives of his students are just impossible to adequately describe.”
For more information about welding bootcamps, contact Ms. LaMountain at email@example.com or 423-614-8795.
Chad Laxton instructing MIG welding student