DHS teacher shared student successes

Carol Roehm|Commercial-NewsRetiring Danville High School industrial technology teacher Duane Collins stands next to a 3-D printer the students use in his classes.   

Carol Roehm

DANVILLE — Danville High School’s industrial technology teacher Duane Collins has seen firsthand how the use of technology in education has rapidly grown and evolved.

“When I first came here in 1999, we didn’t even have Project Lead the Way,” he said.

After 16 years of keeping up with the latest in computer-aided design and drafting software and technological advances in the engineering and manufacturing fields, Collins retired from teaching last week.

“Technology not only has improved but is more widely used in schools, such as computers,” Collins said. In the industrial technology department at DHS, Collins’ students used software programs for computer-aided design and drafting, such as AutoCAD and Inventor.

Collins’ classes were rigorous enough for them to be offered as dual-credit classes with Danville Area Community College.

“We have AutoCAD for our CAD classes that are dual-credit classes with DACC, and Inventor for our Project Lead the Way class, Introduction to Engineering Design, that is also a dual-credit class,” he said.

In the Introduction to Engineering Design class, which was Collins’ highest enrollment class, students use AutoCAD for 2D drawing.

“We also have a 3D printer that will print small 3D plastic parts that have been designed in AutoCAD or Inventor,” he said.

Prior to teaching, Collins had been a machinist. He was taking classes at Indiana State University to become an industrial technology teacher when someone came to one of his classes and asked if any of the students would be willing to get a provisional vocational license to teach right away. Collins jumped at the opportunity.

Collins was the vocational machining tools instructor at Attica (Ind.) Junior-Senior High School when he called Brock Blinn, then-president of the District 118 school board, about placing a student at a company where Blinn was working at the time.

“One of the reasons I was brought here was because of Brock Blinn, president of the school board,” Collins said. “He encouraged me to apply.”

During his tenure as a teacher, one of Collins’ biggest challenges was convincing students and parents that there is a bright future in manufacturing and to give engineering a try.

“They’re tough curriculums, so they have to start early with math and technical work,” he said. “I also encourage my students to take calculus in high school and again in college.

“There’s still a stigma,” he lamented about the manufacturing field. “Project Lead the Way was started because we do not graduate enough engineers.”

Collins said his favorite memory as a teacher is when his students succeed in the classroom and in life.

“Any time you have a student show their joy and excitement about a project or activity that they have successfully completed, that is what makes you realize what you are doing is important, at least to that student,” he said.

Another high point every year was when Collins would take his students to the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.

“It has always been a great experience because the students get to see all kinds of manufacturing technology from all over the world,” he said. “They get to see the most fantastic technology at the show.”

One time when Collins and his students were at the show, he heard someone yell out his name.

It turns out a former student was at the show presenting on behalf of his employer, Hurco.

“He was programming CNCs,” Collins said. “That was awesome to see him there.

“It is always a great feeling when you get cards, letters or visits from former students thanking you for what they perceive you have done for them,” he said. “In reality, it is what they have done for themselves with the teacher’s help.

“It’s been a pretty rewarding career,” he added. “I have students at Fairfield Gear in Lafayette and Harrison Steel in Attica; some that are supervisors and managers.”

Collins has big plans for his retirement, such as building a new home in Indiana and traveling this summer to visit his daughter who attends Harvard.

He also plans to volunteer at DHS and North Ridge Middle School next fall when school resumes.

“I love playing chess, and I want to volunteer to make sure the chess programs continue,” he said. “I’m just good enough that the kids have a tough time beating me.”

Also retiring last week from DHS was Sandra Cozatt, a noncertified employee.  

Duane A. Collins

Position: Industrial technology teacher at Danville High School

Age: 60

Education: Graduate of Jamaica High School, Danville Area Community College, Ivy Tech in Indianapolis and Indiana State University.

Experience: Taught industrial technology for 16 years at DHS.