By Barbie Porter


When the former instructor of the construction trades classes and robotics program resigned, many parents and students in the district wondered what would happen to those programs.

Frazee High School Principal Anna Potvin assured all the trades classes will remain as a learning opportunity for all students. She said the classes will now be taught by Jim Rader, Doug Schwarzrock and Trescha Mitchell. 

Rader will be taking over the ever-popular construction trades class, which covers two periods back-to-back. He will also teach the intro to wood working and a recreational course.

The intro to wood working tackles basic wood working skills, where students use  the tools of the trade they learned about in the industrial arts class in junior high at a more challenging level.

“Intro to wood working is the first elective for wood shop,” Rader explained.

The construction trades class is well known in the area for building structures, from houses to sheds to gazebos. Rader said the opportunity to have the school build a house is available, as long as someone is willing to buy the house up front. He explained the days of building spec homes has passed for most school districts as it is a gamble if they can sell it and recoup their expenses.

“We have pre-sales for yard sheds, and the kids learn how to install frame the shed, install siding, shingles, doors and sometimes windows,” Rader said. “I believe we have three or four that want to be on the calendar to have one built.”

Rader will also teach the recreational course, which was a popular course last year with students. The second semester elective affords students the opportunity to make recreational items, such as decoys, fishing rods, corn hole games, duck calls and so forth. 

The class aims to provide students a way to enhance the hobbies they enjoy.

Rader said he has spent many hours prepping for his new classes to be ready for the start of school, as well as the three hours of social studies he will continue to teach.

Shifting to teaching woodworking isn’t a stretch for Rader. He began his work in construction trades while in high school. 

“I had the opportunity to work for Zitzow Electric,” Rader said. “I grew up in the country by Evergreen and they were working on wiring turkey barns. They asked if I’d be interested in working for the summer and I learned how to do that.”

He spent about five years working for the company every summer. Rader returned to his hometown with a teaching degree and after being hired as a FHS teacher his friendship with the shop teacher at the time grew. Rader recalled the shop teacher, John Olson (who now owns OK Lumber) did summer construction work. Rader joined the crew and improved his carpentry skills. 

Eventually, Rader organized his own construction company that has since taken on tasks of building basements and houses, as well as smaller projects such as decks, shingles and remodeling rooms.

Rader is excited for the new teaching opportunity. He explained the skills the kids learn will be lifelong opportunities, and some may even make a career out of it. He is also hoping to bring in speakers from other trades, such as plumbing and electricians, to chat with the students about those careers.

The robotics program was offered as a class and an activity. The class is not being offered this year, but the district is seeking a coach to lead the robotics program.