Steve Benz was once a welder and farmer who hadn’t given much thought to becoming an educator.
Now he is in his 11th year of teaching. In August Benz became the most recent recipient of the Outstanding Teacher of the Year award, presented annually by the Jackson Masonic Lodge No. 42 A.F. and A.M. to a teacher in the Centerville district.
Benz, who still farms, started his journey to becoming a teacher when his eyes were burned in a welding accident.
“When I was lying there with my eyes patched over, my dad and Jennifer, my wife, were saying, ‘You need to maybe do something different,’ ” he recalls.
His wife, an English teacher at the high school, thought he would make a good teacher. At that time, Don Seams, an industrial arts teacher at Centerville, was nearing retirement. Benz was able to complete coursework, do student teaching with Seams and then fill Seams’ shoes.
Benz says teaching is different from welding because back then he basically knew how every day was going to go.
“Now, with the school teaching, there are so many personalities you are dealing with, so many activities, even from hour to hour,” he says. “You get more emotional highs and lows.”
Benz says he enjoys knowing his subjects help students far into the future whether they pursue building trades careers or not.
“A few of them go on to work in these fields,” he says. “And a lot of them own houses and work on their own houses.”
Benz’s building trades classes get the opportunity to give back to the community through service projects like fixing shelter houses, building concession stands, putting in offices for the street department and installing playground equipment.
“Students like it when they leave the high school and do outdoor hands-on work and do something a little different every day,” he says.
Benz says one of his major goals is to build students’ background knowledge to the point where they will feel confident tackling projects in the future.
“I want them to know, hey, I am capable of doing anything, all I’ve got to do is buckle down and start,” he says.