Learn more about what makes Northwest college’s faculty truly excellent!
In collaboration with The Committee on Faculty Development and Morale and the office of College Relations, the TLC is excited to showcase the great work of Northwest College's educators! In this faculty spotlight series, we will feature members of our faculty that are recognized by nominations from their peers based on demonstrated excellence in teaching, mentoring/advising, service, or scholarship. Spotlights will also be promoted by the Marketing, Communications & Web office in a variety of media.
Being surrounded by a surge of sparks and smoke is just a normal day at work for Powell native Harold Elton. As an associate professor of welding, he’s been helping students master their craft at Northwest College since 1999. However, Elton has a long history of teaching welding at all levels that spans 47 years. When he’s not in the shop assisting students with specialized projects, he enjoys motorcycle rides, the outdoors, fishing on his boat and the occasional trip to Alaska.
What originally sparked your interest in welding?
I used to watch my dad when I was really little with farm welding, and ever since then, even through high school, I took all the welding classes I could. In college, I did the same thing. Then I started teaching in 1969. I was born in Powell but left at the end of my sophomore year, so I graduated from Laurel, but the crazy thing is that I went back there to teach, and I was there for 20 years. I also taught in the eastern part of Montana, so I’ve had 47 total years of experience.
What classes do you teach at NWC?
Pipe Certification, Fabrication, Advanced Fabrication, Materials Evaluation, Inspection, General Welding—I think I’ve taught them all. I like them all; they’ve treated me really well. [The department] is changing all the time, and as far as my favorite projects with the students go, I look forward to all of them.
Where do your students work once they graduate?
We’ve got them all over the country. The most successful ones are pipeliners. We’ve got them in Yellowstone, Douglas—all over the place, and they do really well. They leave here, and they buy a machine and truck and go to work to make some big dollars. Once they come into our program, they usually stay. There’s a big change in the students from the beginning of their freshman year to the end of their sophomore year.
Is there any advice you’d give to a high school student who’s thinking about the welding program?
Well, I always tell them that if they’re serious to come here or a to different school…but I like this school the best! When I taught high school, I always brought students here to the contest. I knew the instructors, and I knew the shop. I always wanted to work here, and eventually there was an opportunity.
What do you enjoy about NWC?
It’s friendly. Everyone’s on a first-name basis. I think students like that, and it kind of puts us all on the same level. It makes them more relaxed. If you asked if I’d do this all over again, I probably would because I’ve enjoyed all the years that I’ve had. NWC has been good to me.