The Welding Instructor
Alaska Vocational Technical Center, Seward
Robert Frasher had a full career before he took an official role as a teacher in 2007 with the Alaska Vocational Technical Center (AVTEC). He got interested in welding at a young age while visiting his aunt and uncle, who worked as a welder on an oil platform in Alaska in the 1970s — it wasn’t a passing phase. He learned the basics at 14 but continued to build on those skills over the years.
In his career before teaching at AVTEC, Robert was the welding instructor for the Sheet Metal Workers Local 23, and he is still a member of the Sheet Metal Workers Union to this day. He values all the benefits it brought him, like education opportunities and fair wages.
He believes in strong unions both to protect workers — and teachers — and to guarantee the best quality and highest trained workers and educators. Learning didn’t necessarily come easy for Robert, as he struggled with dyslexia. However, he didn’t shy away from asking questions or requesting clarification and he encourages his students to always do the same.
His own challenges with learning — and successes despite the belief that he couldn’t overcome them — informed his teaching approach and his drive to see his own students succeed. Throughout his career, both in Southern California and once he and his wife ventured North to Alaska, he found himself teaching those around him, always willing to share the knowledge he’d accrued.
Today he tells his students to think of their knowledge base as a tool box, and the candidate with the most tools will be the most successful. Whether it comes to being hired for a well paying position, or staying focused when work is slow, they will have the tools to get the job done. Robert takes a hands-on approach to teaching — he doesn’t shy away from guiding students’ hands and walking them through every step of the way to ensure they master key skills.
“There are no stupid questions, only unanswered ones. I always reassure them: don’t ever be embarrassed because I’m a guy who literally had to walk up to his professor in college — I gave him a piece of chalk and I said: ‘Mr. Stout, please draw me a picture because I don’t understand.’ And he drew me a picture.”
Robert takes a hands-on approach to teaching — he doesn’t shy away from guiding students’ hands and walking them through every step of the way to ensure they master key skills. His instruction outside the shop is similarly comprehensive, providing lessons with the same thoroughness he desired as a student. What he loves most about teaching is seeing the look in a student’s eyes when they come to understand a new concept. “I think when you can actually take somebody and profoundly change their lives in a positive manner, that’s what makes it for me right there,” he said.