Dr. A.J. Neumann, instructor of residential construction at Delta College, put his Dr. Bob Teaching Excellence Award to work when he enrolled in a train-the-trainer program at JLG University in McConnellsburg, PA. In addition to 32 hours of online coursework, Dr. Neumann traveled to the campus to get an additional 30 hours of hands-on training in construction equipment. He then brought back that knowledge to his Delta College students. As he said, “I feel very confident in my ability to teach Delta students the basics of running these machines and issuing a nationally recognized certification to completers. This certification will make these students much safer and will likely improve their employability status and improve their wage garnering ability.”
A.J. started his career as a carpenter apprentice and soon realized that job security was closely linked with professional training and certificates. Always an avid learner, A.J. earned his bachelor’s while working full time and then went on to complete a master’s in education. His decision to enroll in the doctoral program in post-secondary administration from Central Michigan University grew out of his experience serving on a state-wide committee charged with developing construction curriculum. A.J. observed, “The completion of my degree made me aware of how technical education is a subject that is gravely misunderstood as where the non-college capable kids go. This was very disheartening to me, but also very motivational and I was the only male to complete the dissertation process and receive my degree in my cohort.” Earning his doctorate along with his vast experience in the construction field afforded A.J. the opportunity to exert his influence on key curricular decisions and policies for construction education in Michigan. Along with his degrees, A.J. has earned certifications to train students in OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) protocols, first aid, AED (automated external defibrillator) use, and SkyTrak (hydraulic and electrical system) operation.
In addition to his more than 20 years teaching at Delta College, A.J. has served as an advisor on the Associated General Contractors Workforce Development Committee, was one of 25 Michigan educators chosen to serve on the inaugural Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council, and served as the Council’s sole representative for Career and Technical Education.
As a teacher, A.J. leads by example. His classes are typically off site, where students do the actual work involved in construction. In his hands-on classroom, A.J. provides continuous informal assessment and guidance that encourage students to finish what they start and to do the job well. A.J. describes himself as an “instructor, mentor, friend,” to his students who understands their experiences as a former student in Delta’s residential construction program and professional with a long tenure in the industry.
The recent pandemic has brought with it many challenges for those in construction. A.J.’s counseling skills and extensive knowledge of the field provide students with sound strategies and practical ideas for handling the stress that’s part of a construction worker’s life. As A.J. noted, “Construction workers have a very high rate of suicide and students need to be aware of the pitfalls such as stress, drugs, alcohol and the negative connotations which often come with being a ‘construction worker.'”
Although Dr. Bob chose to study the human mind, pursuing degrees in psychology, he never gave up his early roots in construction and carpentry, as his many house projects revealed. In addition, he and A.J. shared a similar commitment to teaching and improving the lives of their students. There’s no doubt Dr. Bob would be gratified by Dr. A.J. Neumann’s impressive use of his teaching excellence award.
Ultimately, I love my job, which makes all of the extracurricular activities I pursue a pleasure not a chore. Students see my genuine enthusiasm and hopefully it conveys a beacon of hope that they can find a job that is although often very physically demanding, can be satisfying and rewarding. The other goal is to have my students graduate and pursue additional education to become lifelong learners as I have.
-Dr. A.J. Neumann