The first and only female welding instructor in Oklahoma may be a little blunt, but Ale Day, 24, assures her students that it comes with the territory and she means no harm.
“My kids will say, ‘You always sound so sarcastic,’ and I say ‘Well, I don’t mean to, but I’m not here to butter you up. I’m here to tell you how it is,” Day said.
The Southern Oklahoma Technology Center’s newest welding instructor worked as a welder in the field for 6 years in New Jersey and California before moving back to Ardmore to be closer to her family. She applied for the welding instructor position not expecting to hear back, and had almost forgotten she had by the time the school called her for an interview.
Though Day always wanted to weld, it wasn’t always in the cards for her. Her parents wanted her to be an attorney, and her father, who has been a welder for 37 years, discouraged her because of the eye damage welders often sustain.
“I can remember being young and dropping him off (at Southern Tech), and now I’m teaching here, so it’s crazy how that worked out,” Day said.
She worked as a paralegal briefly, but never enjoyed it because of the heavy paperwork load and high stakes.  
“Here, I can make mistakes but I can correct them and make it into a lesson for my kids,” Day said.
Day’s blunt approach is a strength in a field like welding, where safety is crucial and the outcome hinges on good technique.  
“I have students in here, second-years, who couldn’t even fit a plate,” Day said. “You should be taught that the first three months of welding school, you know? A lot of people will accept a really bad weld, but if you weld a bad pipe and they pressure it and it blows up, people could die. It’s on you, and that’s the honest truth. Your welding matters, and I want my guys to be proud of their work.”
But Day said it’s also important for students to feel comfortable trying new things. Everyone welds a little bit differently and temperature, equipment, speed and stance all impact how a weld will turn out.
“I’m not here to tell them they have to be perfect,” Day said. “I need for them to be able to tell what they did wrong and fix it. In the field, I didn’t have somebody to run to and say ‘Hey, does this look okay?’ Your boss would be like ‘What? You want me to babysit you?’ In the field, you have to correct yourself.”
At the start of the semester, some of her students were beyond skeptical of her. Brayden Brashear, who joined the program as a junior, admitted that was the case for him.
“I came up here to check it out and the instructor was a girl, and I was like ‘Uh-uh, this isn’t going to work,’” Brasher said. “Then she whupped me at welding so I definitely respect her now. I mean, I did before, but now I respect her even more.”  
But for Samantha Darnell, a first-year welding student who comes from a family of welders, having a female instructor was a plus right from the start.  
“Sometimes I want to strangle the guys but that comes with being the only girl in the class,” Darnell said. “We have more to prove to the guys than they have to prove to us.”
Day said her students realized she had credibility within a few days and don’t think twice about her gender anymore. That wasn’t always the case when she worked as a welder in the field.
 “There were times I got into it, there were times when I had pipes thrown at me because they thought I was being favored over them,” Day said. “It was ridiculous.”
But ugly comments weren’t the worst part.
“I got treated like a girl,” Day said. “I hated being treated like a girl. I can pick up a pipe just like you can and I can weld circles around you.”
Once her kids have welding down, Day said she plans to teach her students pipe-fitting, which not all welders learn, and how to follow blueprints later in the semester.
“There’s a lot of guys in the field who go out there and say they have all this experience and they don’t,” Day said. “I don’t want those to be my guys. When they’re handed a project or a blue print of anything, I want them to knock it out, and when they ask ‘where’d you learn that?’ I want them to say ‘Miss Day taught me that.’”