Cedar mug with handle by Keith Stoughton. [Courtesy photo]

The 2020-2021 school year was Grand County High School woodshop teacher Jessica Manderfield’s first year teaching at the high school after the retirement of longtime woodshop teacher Kent Dalton.

Manderfield teaches different class levels with different project expectations, but says she likes to let her students get as creative as they’d like within project parameters.

“Even with specific guidelines, different wood species can be used or techniques that make the pieces super unique,” Manderfield said. She keeps several exotic wood types on hand that can add color to a wood project: Purple Heart wood has a purple color, Padauk is red, and Osage orange has a rich yellow hue.

“The students really like to incorporate them for a bit of flair,” Manderfield said. “It was super fun watching the students come up with their designs.”

Manderfield said her first year of teaching at Grand County High School was a challenge, in part because she had to shift from previous experience teaching through alternative programs to adhering to standard education practices.

“Support and help from the administration, other teachers and even the retiring shop teacher, Kent Dalton, was gratefully taken,” she said. Manderfield added that Dalton had established a great woodworking and construction program, and she was glad to be taking it over and adding her own “twist.”

“It would probably be remiss of me to not mention teaching during COVID,” Manderfield added, noting the pandemic as another challenging aspect of the last school year.

“Keeping desks, safety gear, and tools clean became an hourly task,” she said, but she was impressed by students’ adaptability to changing rules and protocols.

“Now that masks are not mandated, my biggest hurdle will probably be recognizing my students without masks,” Manderfield joked.