On any day of the week, the sounds of screeching metal and sparking fire emanate from a room full of machinery in the bottom floor of the IT building. Misty Henry, PCC alum and welding professor, can usually be found fusing and constructing metal with her hands.
“I have the best job in the world,” said Henry with excitement. “For sure I have the best job in the world!”
Blonde and blue-eyed, she went from being an underwater welder to becoming one of PCC’s very own welding professors. Henry attended PCC from 1987 to 1989 and played softball as a catcher and a clean-up hitter.
“I spent my most formative years here,” Henry said.
She then transferred to San Jose State and injured her shoulder so she came back home to LA. Henry couldn’t play her sport anymore, but she found something that she could love just as much.
In welding, Henry found that she could be “super competitive, super aggressive.” She liked that she could work with other people who worked really hard.
“I just loved it so much,” she said.
Right off the bat, she went to the underwater welding program and commercial diving school for one year at LA Harbor’s College of Oceaneering in Wilmington. Henry had a competitive work ethic and wasn’t afraid to try things, which set her apart from others in the field.
After dive school she got hired at Inshore Divers, where she did her first underwater welding and underwater exothermic cutting projects. Exthothermic cutting is a joining technique that’s used to create a permanent connection between two metallic components. Then she joined the Pile Drivers Union and did most of her work with the general contracting firm Pan Marine/Miller Thompson.
During her last couple of years working in the underwater welding field she had two knee replacements.
“I went back to teaching after my surgeries, field work wasn’t an option,” Henry said, adding that she also had surgery on her shoulder.
Henry started here at PCC as an adjunct instructor in the spring of 2014 at night after a friend retired and recommended her. After 20 something years of being away from PCC, Henry was enthusiastic and passionate about coming back.
“I couldn’t believe it, this is my dream, and I’m back at PCC,” Henry said. “I never thought I would be a teacher, but I found something that I am passionate about. I want my kids to have the success that I have and they could and they will.”
Henry believes that all of the positive changes that have taken place at the welding shop could not have been done without her students. From crawling through tunnels and then becoming a professor, her students have brought her dreams of the shop to life.
“I am so happy, you have no idea. I could not tell you how happy I am,” Henry said. “Expect great things from my kids.”
For the first time in 50 years the welding program at PCC is offering LA city licensing in-house certifications. PCC’s welding team is going to compete in SkillsUSA for regionals in hopes of going to the state competition in San Diego and nationals in Indiana.
“We did it, me and the kids. We did it. I could’ve not done it by myself,” said Henry with a pause. “I want to make this program famous, nationally recognized.”
Henry believes that when things get competitive people work much harder and her class has shown her just that. She has done research to help the class and the team better themselves by finding ways that they can win tools, get scholarships and meet prospective employers.
“She really likes the student body and she goes above and beyond. She spends a lot of her extra time so that she can give them as many opportunities to make them succeed,” said Robert Eldridge, a tutor and previous student of Henry’s.
Michael Chong, another student, agreed.
“She sets a standard for a teacher. She goes beyond what she really needs to do,” said Chong, a tutor and student in the welding class. “She helps you on anything that you need.”
And other future female welders are following in her footsteps.
“Coming into the shop and being the only girl is really hard,” said Adrianna Anthony-Gaffield, another student. “She opened my eyes to seeing that a welder is not a man, a welder is someone who can perform the correct skills and welds to something.”