Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight – Manufacturing Futures

Welcome back to our Stapp Inspires Educator Spotlight Series! If you are joining us for the first time, thanks for stopping by. Each month we highlight a different educator within St. Vrain Valley Schools – individuals who are making an impact on their students, staff, and the entire community. We hope you will continue to join us as we travel around the district each month. 



This month we headed to the Career Development Center (CDC) to meet with Neil Shupe, Director of Manufacturing at St. Vrain’s new Advanced Manufacturing Academy (AMA) – a program providing students with the opportunity to explore careers in welding, machining, optics and electronics. Over the last year, Neil and his team reclaimed the space vacated by the Innovation Center and transformed it into several state-of-the-art work stations, focusing on career paths within the field of manufacturing.


Over the past year, St. Vrain has devoted a great deal of time to develop curriculum and relationships with industry partners. By forming these connections Neil and his team are able to learn what skills employers are looking for and how to create programs fostering those skills. Students who complete a path within the AMA have the opportunity to walk away with several industry recognized certificates and/or robust skill sets to establish themselves in the workforce.


Another goal of the AMA is to challenge the notion that everyone must attend a 4-year college or university. Neil wants to highlight the demand and sophistication of manufacturing careers and break the stereotype of what technical education might look like. But there is so much more to this beautiful story.


Neil started his career in education teaching chemistry and biology. But also enjoyed working with his hands, making things. In college he had a woodshop set up in his closet that he would roll out to the patio and create wooden longbows. Today, the same passion extends to his classroom. Neil plans to be the heart and soul behind the AMA, encouraging students to find their greatest potential. His passion is not so much for the subjects that he teaches, but the students who come to take his classes.


He shared a story of a student greatly impacted by a caring teacher. This student spent a lot of time sitting in the hall, just outside the classroom, for one infraction or another. The student struggled to sit still, talked to everyone, and was considered ‘hyper-active’. As this student grew older, test anxiety also became an issue. The student comprehended what was being taught and excelled at other assigned projects; however, tests were a struggle. School was tough.


Believing a four-year degree was the only way to be successful, the student continued on to college. Testing remained a challenge and threatened the possibility of graduating.

Luckily, this student had a professor in his corner. Someone who saw beyond what a sheet of paper said, beyond a single test result. The professor recognized the student’s ability and allowed him to conduct classroom labs and went as far as to invite administrators to attend these labs. Neil was this student, and with the support of his mentor, he graduated.


Just as his professor believed in him, he believes in his students and strives to be open and available to each of his students. We can’t wait to see the AMA take off and the success of the students that have the opportunity to interact with Neil.


Neil, thank you for taking the time to meet with us. We wish you and the entire AMA team the best of luck as you start this new adventure in education! 


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