Daniel Kolodich, a senior at Everett High School, works through an assignment Thursday morning at Sno-Isle Tech in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Daniel Kolodich, a senior at Everett High School, works through an assignment Thursday morning at Sno-Isle Tech in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Hands-on instruction in the COVID age is something to savor

At Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center, the gradual return of in-person learning is a welcome reprieve from screen time.

EVERETT — Brent Delfel is accustomed to an auto shop full of students wanting to learn about diesel engines.

These days, when he shouts instructions his words ricochet off the walls and car parts lining the work space: “Don’t force it! Loosen up the thumb wheel!”

On a late January morning, Delfel was supervising three students as they worked together to adjust a set of truck wheel bearings, a repair he finds rewarding to teach because it requires precision at every step. In this era of COVID-19 restrictions, they were the privileged few allowed into the classroom that day.

Delfel teaches diesel power technology at Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center, a public school that offers dozens of technical training programs to local high school students.

For Sean Kelly, one of Delfel’s students, this hands-on challenge comes as a refreshing escape from the emotional drain of virtual learning.

“It’s been super nice to actually get into a class, have the teacher physically talk to you and do physical work — instead of just Zoom,” Kelly said in an interview. “I have a hard time focusing with online classes, and it’s not fun.”

A senior at Everett High School, Kelly spends the majority of his school time slumped over a computer keyboard.

But the 2½-hour block he gets to spend in the shop twice a month provides an opportunity to stretch both his body and mind. It is a time to be savored.

“My favorite part of class is being able to work hands-on, crawl around inside of cars and learn how everything works inside their systems,” he said.

Kelly is one of 950 students at Sno-Isle Tech who come from 14 districts and 44 high schools in Snohomish and Island counties. The school has taught students online since the onset of the pandemic, but it also offers limited face-to-face education. Since September, students have enrolled in classes on campus in 12 of the 22 programs, including diesel power technology, welding and culinary arts.

Right now, these windows allow four students to meet one teacher on the Sno-Isle campus at 9001 Airport Way in Everett.

Starting Feb. 16, the school plans to increase group sizes to eight students apiece who will meet 2½ hours once a week, Sno-Isle director Wes Allen said. Attending in person will still be optional. Students are only graded on remote work.

Bob Throndsen, instructor of welding and metal fabrication, talks about the challenges of teaching online for a hands-on trade Thursday morning at Sno-Isle Tech in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Bob Throndsen, instructor of welding and metal fabrication, talks about the challenges of teaching online for a hands-on trade Thursday morning at Sno-Isle Tech in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

“We can teach and assess theory online, but when they (the students) get here, they want to touch the equipment,” said Bob Throndsen, a Sno-Isle teacher known as “Welder Bob” to his students. “The social aspect of being here on the school’s campus is tremendous. We are the reason kids get out of bed in the morning, and we make changes in their lives that we hear about all the time from parents, grandparents and guardians.”

Throndsen loves seeing students learn to be patient as they seek to master technical subjects.

For Kelly, keeping track of every detail in a repair is a challenge — but it’s good practice that has helped him at his current job at FS AutoWorx, a diesel engine repair shop in Monroe.

“I wasn’t the most confident kid my first year, and I knew nothing about cars,” he said. “This year I’ve felt a lot better and have been doing things on my own.”

Sno-Isle Tech is one of 17 skills centers in Washington that provide job-specific training, certification and post-secondary credit.

“We’re teaching these kids how to sell themselves and be a better asset to society,” Throndsen said. “We’re trying to give them the skills on their tool belts that they can use in the future to be job-ready.”

Herald reporter Ellen Dennis: ellen.dennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Lead climbers head up their respective routes at Vertical World North on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Beginner’s ascent: A newcomer’s guide to indoor climbing

Indoor climbing gyms in and around Snohomish County offer thrills without winter chills.

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Providence Swedish tightens COVID, mask policy

Citing a rise in respiratory illness, local hospitals and clinics will require masks for care.

Chestnut mushrooms grow in a fruiting tent on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at Black Forest Mushrooms in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Fungi town: Downtown Everett home to new indoor gourmet mushroom farm

Black Forest Mushrooms will grow up to 20,000 pounds of tasty mushrooms each month. Its storefront opens Saturday at 2110 Hewitt Ave.

Outside of Angel of the Winds Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Police arrest Angel of the Winds arena worker accused of stabbing boss

The man allegedly walked up to his employer and demanded a raise, before stabbing him in the stomach, witnesses said.

The town post office in Index, Washington on Wedesday, Nov. 29, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Index, smallest town in Snohomish County, is No. 1 in voter turnout

Index has beaten the Snohomish County ballot return rate in each of the last 10 years. Snohomish County leaders have a few theories as to why.

Founder and Executive Director Pa Ousman Joof, alongside Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell, right, prepares to cut the ribbon during the grand opening of the Washington West African Center on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Born out of struggle, West African Center flourishes in Lynnwood

African music filled the room Saturday at 19203 36th Ave. West, for the grand opening of the nonprofit’s new state headquarters.

An STI clinic opened Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Free STI clinic opens in Everett after 14-year hiatus — and as rates spike

The county-run facility will provide treatment and resources for prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

Graffiti covers the eastern side of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County Cascade Unit on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Again, Boys and Girls Club tagged with suspected gang signs in Everett

Residents on Cascade Drive say their neighborhood has been the scene of excessive graffiti and sometimes gunfire in the past year.

A man pauses to look out over the flooding along Old Snohomish Monroe Road on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Why are Snohomish County rivers susceptible to flooding?

The short answer: Geography. Our proximity to Puget Sound and the mountains makes our rivers sensitive to big storms.

Henry King sits on a bench he often spent time on between the Boulevard Park and Taylor Dock boardwalks in Bellingham, Washington. (Photo courtesy of Bellingham Police Department)
Marysville man accused of killing ‘kind, gentle’ homeless Bellingham man

After a nine-month investigation, police arrested Elijah Belmont Wednesday in the death of Henry King in Boulevard Park.

Traffic moves along Mukilteo Speedway in front of Olympic Middle School on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Automated traffic speed cameras get the green light in Mukilteo

Cameras will be at three sites on Mukilteo Speedway for school and park safety, not at red lights.

Brenda Stonecipher, left, and Mary Fosse
Everett council president backs down from ban on holding 2 offices

On Wednesday, over 20 speakers showed up to support City Council member Mary Fosse’s ability to serve in the state Legislature.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.