SPANISH FORK — If there's one thing the boss doesn't tolerate, it's laziness.
Shop teacher Jared Massic tries to instill this in his students.
"Commitment, dedication, hard work," Massic said.
Now those lessons are being applied by his students who are finalists in a national competition.
Massic's been teaching shop at Maple Mountain High School for years. Some of his students will admit they found him a bit intimidating at first.
"I was a little scared of him, actually," said Sam Christmas. "He seemed a little mean."
Of course, it's a little difficult to be afraid of the man who rules with an iron fist when he looks like he's still in high school.
"I think what keeps me so young looking is my jovial personality," Massic said. "I act like them, I look like them, it's just a good combination."
But despite his youthful appearance, there's no doubt he's critical of his students' work — and the reason might just be because he wants to temper them with the fires of adversity.
"When we make a mistake, he likes to point it out so we can fix it," said Christmas.
But if you tried to call him "Mr. Massic," he might not respond. His students just call him 'Massic.'
"I'm just more on a personal level with them," Massic said. "I want to make sure that they understand I'm a confidante. They can trust me."
And make no mistake — there's lessons here beyond shaping metal. He's trying to forge adults from the raw elements of teenagers.
"You show up on time, you do hard work, you get paid to be there and then you go home," Massic said. "I teach them a lot of things in the classroom that I think carries on to other careers as well."
But the most important lesson amid the soaring sparks in the shop is the one the students are learning from their teacher's past.
"I literally hated life," Massic said. "It was so terrible doing customer support for a cell phone company. I want to teach shop. I want to be out there building things with the kids. A lot of my students even ask me, 'Massic, why aren't you out in the field? You could be making double of what your teacher's salary is,' and money doesn't really buy happiness."
Whether Massic's students end up assembling careers with flame, or manufacturing lives in a different way, they're certainly learning how to be a part of a team.
The team from Maple Mountain is one of three high school finalists in the entire country for the "Weld it Forward" contest. Given a box of random materials, they were told to make something that lived up to the contest's name. A week before the deadline, the class still hadn't come up with their project. Then, inspiration hit.
"Two of our students were going to Mexico for a humanitarian project," Massic said. "I said, 'Why can't we just find a way to piggyback? What do these people in Mexico need?' We decided we were going to build these kitchen tables."
Massic's no stranger to winning. Last year, a group of his students brought home the national championship from the SkillsUSA Welding Fabrication competition.
Unlike that competition, the winner in the "Weld it Forward" contest is determined by online voting. The grand prize is $20,000 worth of welding equipment for Massic's shop. Voting is open until March 26, and the winners will be announced April 3.
But win or lose, the lessons are clear: Sometimes, your teacher is tough because he cares. Money isn't everything.
And sometimes, the teacher who looks like a student learns just as much from the ones he's paid to help.
"There's always going to be the ups and downs, and the ones who need to learn a lesson or two — and the ones who teach you a lesson or two," Massic said. "But I couldn't be more proud of the group of kids and what they've accomplished, because it's not typical, right?"
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