Longtime Olympia educator retires

After 42 years as an educator in the Olympia School District, Tim Carlson is retiring.

He’s taught metal shop, welding, power technology and woodworking at Capital High School for the past 27 years. Before that he taught shop at Olympia High School for 15 years.

“He’s like your grandpa -- I love him so much,” said sophomore Hannah Anderson, 16, who took his spring welding class at Capital High School. “He’s a very interactive teacher. He cares about students a lot.”

Capital principal Chris Woods said Carlson has been a mentor for many students.

“He can inspire students who have lost hope and he can make connections with students who are hard to reach,” Woods said.

Carlson, 65, sat down with The Olympian last week to talk about his life and teaching career. Here are excerpts of the conversation.

Q: Retirement -- why now?

A: It almost sounds morbid, but I’ve had too many friends who have had health issues when they’ve held on too long.

...Part of it is the fact that I have many, many projects that I would like to pursue -- cars that I’m turning into hot rods, and remodeling projects at the house.

There’s always the elusive travel that everybody talks about. And fishing -- any and all. I love fishing.

Q: Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up and go to school?

A: I was born and raised in Centralia. I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Western Washington University and administrative credentials from Central Washington University.

Q: So did you ever go into administration?

A: I substituted for a vice principal on medical leave and decided that that was not really something I wanted to do for the rest of my career.

Q: How have wood and metal programs changed since you began teaching?

A: Fewer students are coming in with any type of hands-on experience. In many cases, students haven’t used tools at all -- it’s totally new to them.

I also think there’s a different work ethic these days. The department was much larger at that time.

Graduation and college entrance requirements have changed so students have fewer electives that they can take. There has been a move to push away hands-on classes.

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching?

A: Seeing the spark. When kids get something -- that light comes on. You can see it in their eyes.

That, and seeing many (former) students who are now in careers where they got a start here.

Q: What’s the hardest part about teaching?

A: Having some students who do not care about their grades and their success. It’s usually a lack of maturation -- not realizing the disaster they may be in for without an adequate education.

It’s sad when you see people wasting time because time is one thing we can never, ever get back.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add?

A: Retirement is bittersweet. I’ve really felt fortunate being in a career that’s been as fulfilling as it has.

What I teach are things I love to do. When I come to work, I’m sharing things that I love, so what could be better?