What is a Shop Teacher?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A shop teacher is someone who provides instruction in what is sometimes referred to as “industrial arts.” This includes woodworking, metalworking, and automotive repair. These teachers work at the middle and high school level, providing instruction to students who are interested in various aspects of the industrial arts. This type of work requires both shop skills and a teaching credential and the requirements to become a shop teacher can vary by nation.

A jointer, which is used in woodworking. Woodworking is often taught in shop class.
A jointer, which is used in woodworking. Woodworking is often taught in shop class.

In the case of a woodworking teacher, the shop teacher provides instruction to students in working with wood. This includes everything from teaching students about different kinds of wood to providing safety instruction so that students can use shop equipment like sanders, lathes, and saws. Depending on the level of the class, students may be given relatively simple projects or may progress into the finer points of woodworking.

A shop teacher must know how to safely operate power tools, including miter saws.
A shop teacher must know how to safely operate power tools, including miter saws.

Metal shops, also, can be found on some high school and middle school campuses. A shop teacher who teaches students metalworking skills works with students as they learn to cut, weld, acid etch, and perform other tasks with metal. Students may learn to fabricate metal components and they can also work on art projects in the metalworking shop. Since students are exposed to dangerous equipment and supplies, specialized safety training may be required for a metalworking teacher.

Another type of shop teacher is an auto shop teacher. These teaching professionals provide instruction to students who want to learn about how to build, rebuild, and repair cars. Basic mechanical training is provided to students with the assistance of cars that are donated or purchased at low cost. These teachers can also be involved in projects such as building alternative fuel vehicles with students.

No matter what kind of shop a shop teacher works in, the goal is to provide students with basic information and skills. Students may end up applying these skills to professional development, pursuing additional training after they graduate so that they can work as woodworkers, metalworkers, or mechanics. The teacher provides a grounding in safety and the myriad skills needed to work comfortably in the shop environment.

Shop is often an elective class and shop teachers work primarily with students who are specifically interested in acquiring shop skills. These teachers can also work in institutions and correctional facilities, providing vocational training to inmates. This training can be part of a rehabilitation program that is intended to offer training to people who want skills that they can apply outside the institution.

Shop teachers often teach woodworking.
Shop teachers often teach woodworking.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I took industrial arts in seventh grade because it was required. Since we were so young, we only had to learn the very basic stuff.

Our shop teacher introduced us to tools like squares, levels, different types of saws, and drills. We probably spent more time in the classroom taking notes than actually working with materials. In fact, I remember the teacher doing lots of demonstrations, but I don’t remember doing much myself.

I do remember one day we did nothing but work with the saw. We were all wearing safety goggles and gloves, and we took turns running wood through the thing.


I remember being overwhelmed in shop class when the teacher told us we would be designing miniature race cars. I knew nothing about cars and very little about aerodynamics, and we were actually going to race these cars against each other.

I came up with the leanest, most rounded design feasible. It looked like a narrow tube with a bullet on top. I had a lot of assistance from both my teacher and my dad.

The car looked cool. I spray painted it a deep blue that faded to silver. I can’t remember if it won the race or not, but I think it at least took a spot near the top.


The only good memory I have from shop class is making a Christmas ornament. Though I hated using the saw to carve it, I loved painting it and taking it home to hang on the tree. It was neat to have something that I could say I made from scratch.

The shop teacher helped all of us out a lot with the saw. He was probably afraid we would lose fingers. I hate anything that makes loud noises, especially if I know it could cut off parts of my body.

I liked the fact that we actually got to sit down and paint. That is so much more up my alley than woodworking. I didn’t need any help with that.


@gravois - My shop teacher was mean, too! I think it could have had something to do with the fact that all students were required to take his class, so instead of ending up with a group who actually wanted to learn the techniques, he got a bunch of uninterested kids.

One thing I particularly hated was doing drawings with the t-square. Every line had to be perfect, and you had to erase any overlaps or placemarks. I ended up getting a B in that class, and in all my other classes, I got straight As. My brain just does not work three-dimensionally, and most of the work we did involved building things out of wood.


It has been almost 50 years since I was out of high school but I can still remember our shop teacher. His name was Mr Dooley and he was maybe the meanest man I've ever met.

He was very old and he walked with this hunched over posture. he always has the butt of a cigar sticking out of his mouth and his voice sounded like a cement mixer full of gravel.

He spent most of his time just telling us that out work looked terrible. He didn't even spend that much time with instruction. But even though he was so mean and tough there was something almost comic about his presence. I remember shop class as being a lot of barely stifled laughs and quickly concealed snickers. Mr. Dooley was just such an over the top character it was impossible to take him seriously.

My experience does not seem to be unique. The desire to be a shop teacher seems to inspire some pretty strange and goofy people.


The shop teacher at my high school was notorious because he only has 7 fingers between his two hands. Nobody knew how he had lost the other 3 but it was widely speculated that they had fallen victim to the blades of the table saw.

In spite of that he was a great teacher who was actually really big on the importance of safety. I guess that accidents can happen no matter how careful you are. And sometimes they can happen 3 times.


At my high school we had a shop class but it mostly focused on metalworking and automotive repair. Our school actually bought a car every semester that we would help restore as part of our coursework.

I found that learning how to fix a car was really useful, and frankly a lot of fun. I had always loved cars, and being a teen, getting to actually work on one was pretty fantastic.

Now that I think back on those old class projects, I wonder what happened to the cars that the students repaired and restored?

Perhaps the school auctioned them off and the teachers got a nice cruise out of them or something. I guess I'll never know.


One of my best memories from grade school comes from working with my shop teacher. While I found most of school pretty boring it was great to meet someone who understood how great it to be to work with your hands and actually make something useful and worthwhile.

One of my favorite projects was to make a piece of furniture. While most classes revolved around pretty abstract concepts, a chair or desk I could really understand the purpose of. It was a lot of fun constructing everyday objects and actually being to use them afterward.

To this day I still complete woodworking projects as a hobby. I would much prefer to make my own furniture than to buy some.


I remember my shop teacher that I had in the eighth grade. He really made the class interesting. I didn’t think that it was going to enjoy shop class,but I did.

My teacher taught us that in shop you can really create a lot of useful and decorative things with wood. I still have the letter B that I carved out with all of those saws all those years ago. My shop teacher was really awesome.

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