Mike Begyn is the kind of instructor students gravitate toward. A plain-spoken welder and horseman, Mike tells them exactly what they need to hear: “You can do anything you put your mind to. Try again!”
Welding is a challenging field for anyone just starting out. The equipment itself can be intimidating, the math takes focus and practice, and you have to learn to read blueprints. Students often believe they can’t do it. Begyn remembers feeling the same way as he tackled his own welding classes. Thanks to patient teachers, he stuck with the classes and ended up with a 32-year career at John Deere. Now semi-retired, he owns his own welding business and teaches for Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC).
“I just love teaching,” he says. “Helping set students on the path to a good career really lights me up. One guy is now making $150,000 running his own pipe crew in Minnesota.
Another AAS graduate now teaches alongside Mike. “Megan Edens started taking classes because she was tired of nursing, but she didn’t think she could do it,” Mike remembers. “I arranged for her to try it out at my brother’s machine shop in Rock Island for a week to see if she liked it. She did, so she started taking classes but kept quitting because she said it was too hard. I told her she could do it. To get her butt back to class. She did, and now she’s a great teacher.”
Teaching welding requires a keen understanding of what each student needs to succeed, whether in a college classroom or onsite at EICC business partners like MidAmerican and Tyson. Begyn’s ability to connect with each learner is why he achieves an 80 percent placement rate teaching students from the Muscatine homeless shelter.
He also enjoys working with high school kids, a happy discovery made while filling in for another teacher in the EICC Career Academy. The experience allowed him to blend three of his passions — welding, teaching, and horses — during the fall 2022 semester. He brought a project he’d been asked to do for a nonprofit equine therapy program into the classroom and let the students build it.
“I sketched the project — it was an aluminum platform — on the chalkboard and gave the students the overall dimensions. They had to figure out sizing for the individual pieces. It gave them a chance to calculate sizes to be cut. They helped make the materials list. Then we went into the shop to cut and put the puzzle pieces together.”
It’s the way Begyn teaches: hands-on, with plenty of guidance.
The experience was especially meaningful, given his love of horses, teaching, and welding. But the students were the stars.
“They did it all. I helped them lay it out, and taught them how to keep the parts square. But they did all the cutting and welding. It turned out great.”
Begyn is just one example of the dedicated instructors at EICC. When he’s not volunteering in the community, you will often find him providing customized training to local companies through the college’s Office of Continuing
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