Dedicated to her trade and passionate about using her teaching talents to pay it forward, Pamela Richardson is helping Compton College students achieve more than they believed they could. “I find that it is most rewarding when some of my students who did not think they could attend and survive college, let alone attain a degree, actually complete these dreams and become employed in high-paying jobs,” said Richardson, a welding instructor at Compton College.
Her work was recently recognized and celebrated when the American Welding Society named Richardson Teacher of the Year worldwide. The organization serves more than 73,000 members globally and is comprised of 22 districts with 250 sections and student chapters.
Richardson began welding in 1992 after being overcharged by an auto mechanic when her car broke down. She started with automotive repair classes and then followed up with welding classes to prevent being taken advantage of again. While taking these classes, Richardson discovered she was pregnant. Her child became her biggest inspiration to succeed. She completed her welding training and became a certified welder in 1994.
Richardson now has more than 20 years of welding experience. She has held various welding jobs including for the Local 108 Sheet Metal Workers Union and working on the Red Line of the Los Angeles Metro Rail. In addition, she had the opportunity to work on the headquarters of well-known architect Thom Mayne who established the design firm Morphosis.
While working in the field, Richardson also dedicated time to teaching. She taught for 11 years at various levels and institutions within the Los Angeles Unified School District. “I became the first female African American woman to teach full time for that school district in its history,” said Richardson. When asked what advice she would give young women interested in a welding career, Richardson said, “Stick with it and don’t let the guys discourage you! Make sure you attain a degree so you can expand your trade.”
Richardson is currently a full-time welding instructor at Compton College. She joined the Career and Technical Education division at the college during the 2014-15 academic year. She earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from National University, and a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Phoenix. She was previously an adjunct instructor of welding at El Camino College Compton Center and Rio Hondo College, and was a welding instructor at the Huntington Park-Bell Community Adult School. Richardson is a member of the American Business Women’s Association, American Welding Society SENSE Program, and the American Association of University Women.
Extremely popular with her students, Richardson’s passion for teaching is inspired by her students’ success stories. One Compton College student who earned his welding certificate and secured a high-paying job described Richardson as a beautiful person inside and out. “She is very good at what she does and is always exited to help students out and talk about welding,” he said.