BEATTY — Town residents have recently been up in arms following news that the shop program at Beatty High School would be shut down when longtime teacher Jim Benshoof retires at the end of the year.
Initial indications were that the school district would not be filling his position. That is no longer the case.
“I talked with (Nye County School District) superintendent (Dale) Norton about the program and how important it was to the kids, and he agreed,” Beatty principal Gary Flood said. “He told me to go ahead and give it my best shot. I really appreciate him giving me the chance to fill the position.”
But the program is still in some jeopardy, but not because of a budget cut.
Flood knows it is not going to be easy to get a shop teacher because of a national teacher shortage and the difficulty of finding teachers willing to teach in a remote, rural location, particularly specialty teachers.
He noted the difficulty he had filling the position last year after music teacher Dale Lerbakken retired. Several people showed interest, then didn’t show up, or showed up and then backed out. One lasted a few weeks, but left after finding he had allergies in the desert.
Benshoof has been the shop teacher at Beatty High School for 30 years. He recalls that when he first arrived there was very little to work with.
“There were just a few old tools, and I had to scrounge for metal for the kids to weld,” Benshoof said. “(Former custodian) Dave Hannigan helped with that.”
He also “scrounged up” some small engines for beginning students to work on. “We still have one small engine I found at the dump, and it has probably been rebuilt a hundred times. We even got it running. A lot of people in the community helped with the program.”
Over the years Benshoof built a very successful program, teaching auto shop, welding, drafting, and a little bit of wood shop. Beatty High students have done very well in skills competition. Two years in a row students qualified for national competitions in both auto shop and welding. This year Abbygaille Paniaqui won a gold medal and Matthew Reetz a bronze in regional competition.
The training many students received in the program started them on their careers, mainly as automotive technicians or welders.
Benshoof has also been very involved in the community and served for several years as chief of the volunteer fire department.
He says family was a big factor in his decision to retire this year. His parents, who live in Wyoming, are quite elderly, and “they’ve been asking for us to get closer.”
Even though the Benshoofs will be spending time in Wyoming, he thinks they will probably keep their house in Beatty. He says his wife, Leona, who retired after 36 years teaching in Nevada, does not like the snow.