The moment anyone walks into Robby Adams’ classroom, they tend to understand what kind of teacher he is.
Adams, a carpentry and construction instructor at Southern Tech, received the Outstanding Instructor of Non-Traditional Students Award from the Oklahoma Career and Technical Education Equity Council in late March. Adams received the award during the 23rd annual Making It Work Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Adams said he was surprised by the award and nearly missed his invitation.
“I received a letter in the mail and I just thought it was junk mail at first,” Adams said. “Then I got to looking at it and thought ‘wait?’
“It did catch me off guard. And it was very humbling and I was very happy.”
The award is given to an instructor that is committed to students and helps remove the barriers for non-traditional students by providing education experiences beyond the classroom. Adams said roughly 20 percent of his program is non-traditional students, which for his program means either women or older students.
Adams was nominated for the award by Claudia Corona,  a carpentry student at Southern Tech and a non-traditional student who doubles as a student and a single parent. Corona, who is a nationalized citizen from Mexico, said she was welcomed the moment she walked into Adams’ classroom. English is Corona’s second language, so when she started the course she didn’t know the language well. She also was raised with the metric system, which differs from the imperial system used in the United States.
Corona said through Adams’ patience and willingness to work with her, she saw the kind of teacher he is.
“He goes above and beyond,” she said. “He makes me think of teachers the old-school way, where they really care if you’re succeeding and absorbing the most of his class.”
Corona first started working on the nomination after talking to Shannon McElroy, Southern Tech prep program coordinator. Nominations are accompanied by an essay detailing why the instructor should be nominated and Corona was nervous about her grammar and wording. With the help of McElroy, they submitted Adams’ nomination.
Corona said she prayed that Adams would win the award and was ecstatic when she found out he had won.
Corona, who now builds custom carpentry items and wants to open her own shop, said without Adams’ caring approach to teaching and motivation she doesn’t know if she would’ve reached the success she has now.
“He was very patient,” she said. “Many times I thought I was just wasting their time and I said ‘I’m giving up.’ But he wouldn’t let me.
“He really makes you feel that anybody can do it. He makes it look so easy and we all know perfectly fine that it’s not.”
Adams attributed his students’ success, and the number of non-traditional students drawn to the program, to them seeing an opportunity for success. Adams said he cares about his students’ success because he approaches his job with a sense of pride and care.
“I love teaching,” Adams said. “And I tell my students from the very first day, if I didn’t have bills I’d do this for free.
“Any student walks through that door, I don’t care what color, what gender, what age group they come from when they get in my program they are here to learn and I want to make sure I give them an environment to learn.”
While Adams was humbled by the award and being honored at the Capitol, he said for him it’s just another day at work teaching the way he believes he should.
“That’s who I am,” he said.“I just think I’m doing my job.”