A Plan for Life
Drafting Teacher Wins National Award on Merit and Leadership Qualities
"I was blown away." It was one of the greatest feelings in my life," beamed Don Runyan, a drafting instructor at Cleveland High School.
This was his reaction when he was recently named the prestigious SKillsUSA National Advisor of the Year during a National Conference in Kansas City, Mo. in front of an audience of 14,000 people. "This has been a dream of mine for me to be in the running for advisor of the year for SkillsUSA."
His passion is helping students discover and grow their skills and knowledge. As a nationwide partnership of students, instructors and industry working together, SkillsUSA works to ensure America has a skilled workforce. It helps every student excel.
“Every student has a potential,” said Runyan. “Our job as instructors is to unlock that potential. I don’t believe in failures.”
When counselors bring students to Runyan’s architecture/drafting class, he sees their body language and the look of rejection on their faces and immediately accepts them. Though his class only holds 31 seats, by the end of the school year, he has 92 students in his 7 a.m. class – with standing room only. He reflects aloud, if students can stand up to get an education, “I’m willing to take them.”
His architecture/drafting, urban planning class develops curriculum for such potential careers as urban city planning. He teaches students to understand how a community is developed and formed.
Runyan has been teaching for nearly 40 years in the LAUSD. He has numerous stories.
Such as the following: About 10 years ago, a student Danny (named changed to protect the young man’s privacy) joined the SkillsUSA program. He came from an unstable family, and over the course of his schooling, his family moved every year. One year, the teacher and the student had recently returned from a conference. Don dropped off Danny at his home. As usual, Don made sure Danny reached the door, before he drove off. Apprehensively, Danny turned around went back to the car, and told Don his family had left and the apartment was empty. They had moved while he was away at a three day SkillsUSA conference. Runyan helped Danny succeed despite his many obstacles, including drug addiction.
The student graduated from Cleveland High School. Eight years later, he came back to talk to the new students in Don’s class, and shared with them how he turned his life around. He later hired some of the students to work with him in the company he was running.
Because of his successes like these, in 28 years, Runyan has never missed a conference. It’s a rejuvenating experience for him and gives him inspiration.
As a national advisor his goal is to develop quality vocational training programs such as Career Technical Education with a strong leadership component and to help train advisors to use the keys of success that he has experimented with the past 40 years.
There are 330,000 students in SkillsUSA nationwide and 60,000 advisors/instructors nationwide. Don is proud to be a part of the 6,000.
The reason for his success according to another former student is Runyan’s ability “to look at each student and see a winner.”
By: Monica Carazo
Posted: July 18, 2012