Teaching Ambassadors for Craft

December 20, 2019
Nickolas Werner


Community Education
Students posing with constructed timber frame

Woodworking can be a rather intimidating pursuit. But Continuing Education (CE) Instructor Laura Goffin CF ’17 has a way of making it accessible, even to beginners.

“I find that there’s sometimes a preconceived notion of who can and who can’t do woodworking,” Laura shares. “My job is to demonstrate that everyone is welcome and capable of contributing to this field.” She continues, “It’s not about physical strength or gender. It’s about a willingness to try again when things go wrong, and to think critically while taking into account safety and proper technique. After that, it’s just practice.”

One student of Laura’s Woodworking 101 course shared a testimonial of how the instruction helped her get comfortable working with her hands. “She emphasized the idea that mistakes will happen, and that it’s ok if the first time isn’t perfect. I now have the confidence to make some simple projects at home.”

Most CE courses like Woodworking 101 are designed for amateurs interested in learning a new skill. There are also advanced classes for professionals who seek to strengthen their technical understanding. Small class sizes and fully equipped facilities make NBSS a great learning environment for students of all abilities.

Courses are taught by accomplished professionals and master craftspeople, including many graduates of NBSS full-time programs. Laura received her diploma in Cabinet & Furniture Making, for example.

“Lifelong learning opportunities are important for people. We see a lot of adults who have never had access to a workshop or an opportunity to swing a hammer. Through CE, they become ambassadors of the crafts that we care so passionately about.”

CE has grown rapidly over the past four years under the leadership of program director Katie Theodoros. The department started about 30 years ago with just a handful of courses. Last year, the School offered a record 69 unique courses in everything from bookbinding to laser welding to timber framing.

Another milestone in 2019: enrollment in CE courses topped 1,000 students. This was a goal from the start for Katie, and has provided a real benefit to NBSS in cultivating relationships across the School and around the region.

“Outreach and engagement are central to the role of Continuing Education within NBSS,” she says. “We welcome a lot of new people with varied interests and backgrounds into the building through CE classes, which has brought about many other great opportunities too.”

In addition to classes for the public, the CE department also offers a number of courses for partnering schools. These range from hour-long book arts and woodworking workshops for local middle school students to a five-week, full-time summer session for students from Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. Other partnerships help NBSS reach even further into the community, working with institutions such as Massachusetts College of Art, Boston Architectural College, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Row of aprons

According to Katie, many CE students have returned to take more courses. Some were so enamored with their discipline, they have enrolled in a full-time program at NBSS. Inspired by the School’s mission and community, still others have become donors or volunteer leaders.

But CE isn’t entirely about growing a customer base. Offering relatively low-cost short courses outside of a traditional full-time degree program helps serve the School’s mission “to preserve and advance craft traditions, and to promote greater appreciation of craftsmanship.”

“Lifelong learning opportunities are important for people,” Katie says. “We see a lot of adults who have never had access to a workshop or an opportunity to swing a hammer. Through CE, they become ambassadors of the crafts that we care so passionately about.”

View the full list of upcoming Continuing Education classes.

This article is from our 2019 Annual Report. See all the stories here, or view more issues.