Taylor Terhaar, teacher of welding at the Islip Career Center (ICC) was on a tour of BOCES in high school when one glance of the welding class stopped her in her tracks.
“When I heard the welding teacher’s talk and saw sparks flying in the classroom,” she said. “It drew me to welding right away.”
Taylor had already known that she was destined to study a trade. Her grandfather had been an ironworker who worked on the Brooklyn Bridge and Flat Iron building in Manhattan. Her father is a mechanic and fabricator who has his own shop, who would take his time to teach her about welding when they worked on motorcycles and hotrods side-by-side.
While she studied at BOCES, her welding family grew to include her teacher, Mr. Rob Vetter. Mr. Vetter served as not only her teacher but also her mentor, and Taylor flourished under his guidance. She competed in Skills USA and won Best of Long Island in welding.
Her skill and experience catapulted her to a career working in HVAC and machine welding. She became accomplished in the aerospace industry, working with Sikorsky Helicopters.
However, it was her work with Mr. Vetter that brought her back to BOCES. “He [Mr. Vetter] inspired me to teach. He let me start teaching other students when I was still a student.” After his death in 2016, Taylor set up the Vetter Memorial Scholarship at ESBOCES in his honor, which has benefitted four of her students so far.
Taylor seeks to inspire her students in the same way that Mr. Vetter did when she was in the workshop. Her age allows her to connect with special career education students at the ICC. “I’m young, yet students see all I’ve done and it gives them a sense of motivation about the many ways they can use their BOCES skills,” Taylor said. “Also, I’m female, and that’s out of the norm. I’ve had students say they respect me as a woman in the field. So far, I’ve had three female students.”
Not only does she want to show her students how successful you can be in welding, but Taylor also wants to get them there. She is the first welding teacher at the ICC to prepare her students to pass industry-based welding qualification exams. Those exams, presented by the American Welding Society, help the students acquire stackable credentials that can help them get employed by unions, or quickly advance from entry-level welding positions.
Through her work at the ICC, Taylor is gifting her students an experience that will last a lifetime. She’s showing her students first hand, that all you need to be successful is someone to believe in you and just a little spark.