Aug 25, 2015
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A lot of building goes on in Kennedy High woodshop teacher James Henderson’s classroom, and we’re not only talking about chairs, benches and library shelves.

The award-winning teacher also helps his students build character and careers – the “full learning experience,” as Principal Phillip Johnson described it.

“The district goal is for all seniors to graduate college, career, and community ready. Not all of our graduating seniors want to attend college and they lean toward a trade,” Johnson said.

Henderson, the winner two years ago of the West Contra Costa Unified’s “You make a Difference Award,” runs a successful Regional Occupational Program that helps prepare students for a lucrative career.

henderson.8-25-2“His construction program is unparalleled in the district,” Johnson said. “He uses common core concepts as his learning practice. Students use the four core subjects, English, math, science and history to build their projects.”

Henderson is known for going above and beyond the instruction he gives students, sometimes donating student projects to community organizations. For example, his students have worked on building small outdoor libraries for the group Free Little Libraries, a grassroots project to install small wooden boxes around town containing books that are free for community members to borrow.

Special education teacher Sal Morabito said Henderson has been a big asset to his students challenged by severe handicaps (SH).

henderson.8-25“For the last three years, teacher Henderson has spent numerous prep periods to teach a number of my students in his workshop,” Morabito said. “The SH organic raised bed vegetable garden would never be without teacher Henderson. His woodshop students, in collaboration with our SH students during Henderson’s prep periods, made 8 raised beds, 6 benches, two 6×6 tiled tables, and two tool sheds.”

Last year, under Henderson’s guidance, the SH students built two of the three fences surrounding their vegetable garden.

Henderson’s kindness and patience have been a huge boost to Kennedy’s special needs students, Morabito added.

“Our students have found by themselves that they have abilities they had no previous idea they had,” he said.


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.