Today, the new name for Industrial Arts is called “Technology Education.” Wood working class; welding class; mechanic class and metal works class all fall under Technology Education in the parish.
Ten years ago, almost every high school in the parish had a technology education program where students were able to learn about wood works, electricity, bridge building, welding and drafting.
Today, there are only two high schools with industrial arts program and by 2015, there may be no programs remaining because of the age of the teachers teaching these program.
At Abbeville High, Rickey Polite and L.J. Breaux have a combined 70-plus years teaching at AHS. Both have since retired but were re-hired for their same job because no one applied for their job. There is no timetable as to when they plan to walk away for good.
At North Vermilion High, Industrial Arts teacher Paul Benoit recently retired but, he did as Polite and Breaux, reapplied for his same job and was able to get rehired by the School Board.
Benoit has 30-plus years in education and plans to walk away from teaching in five years.
When these three veteran Industrial Arts teacher decide they have enough and retire for good, finding their replacements will be difficult. Already, Industrial Arts programs at Erath and Kaplan vanished because of lack of certified Industrial Arts teachers.
“That is what worries me,” said Benoit. “That is why I came back because I did not want to see it end.”
At Abbeville High, industrial arts consist of classes in auto mechanics, carpentry, welding, drafting, and CAD drawing (computer drawing). Also, Abbeville High is one of the only schools in the state to teach taxidermy. Breaux has been teaching taxidermy for more than 35 years. Polite teaches drafting and CAD drawings.
Breaux, who started teaching at Abbeville High in the mid 1960s, said the reason there is no one majoring in Industrial Arts is because they get better paying jobs outside of education.
“The industry is killing us,” Breaux said. “On salary, there is no competition.”
He said the reason he has stayed in education and not gone into the oil field is because, “I enjoy teaching. I enjoy coming to work every day.”
Breaux said he arrives at the high school at 6:30 a.m. to prepare for his day. As far as retirement, do not look for Breaux or Polite to go away. Even open heart surgery could not persuade Breaux to retire. Thirteen years ago he had open heart surgery, and 10 days later, he was back on the job teaching.
Benoit teaches CAD drawings, drafting and carpentry. Students are not in short supply, either. Benoit has four classes and each one is full.
“I still enjoy teaching,” Benoit said. “Every day is different. The students are always learning.”