When Jacob Lasorso decided to change his established career direction and get his teaching certificate in his 30s, he didn’t have to look far to find inspiration.
“My family has a long history of teachers, and Mom was the most inspiring,” says the Suncoast Technical College instructor of industrial education. “She went back to college at age 30 and got her education degree.”
As much as he admires his mother, Lasorso initially didn’t see himself following her path.
“I was drawn to the creativity and ingenuity that go into new technology and innovative scientific developments, and I didn’t equate teaching with immersing myself in those exciting fields,” Lasorso said.
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Over time, the Innovation Teacher of the Year award recipient found his view changing.
As he applied his digital media degree in web consulting and multimedia graphic design, he realized he always took time to explain to anyone willing to listen what, why and how he was doing something.
“I had such fun learning about new technology, and I couldn’t wait to share what I learned,” Lasorso laughs. “I gave long descriptions and taught people, in my own way, even when they didn’t ask.”
Now, Lasorso effectively shares his excitement about cutting-edge theory, equipment and technology with students in his industrial education classes.
“There’s so much happening in the field and it’s moving rapidly. I enjoy the challenge of keeping up with it – both for the joy of learning and to make sure my students have the latest knowledge and skills to take into the modern industrial environment or to a degree program,” he says.
Lasorso tapped deeply into his store of creativity and thought outside the box to keep students focused when the pandemic forced a transition from hands-on instruction to virtual learning.
In addition to exploring the theory and science behind processes that normally would have been covered in workshops, Lasorso added newer videos of modern manufacturers using robotics and other cutting-edge technology.
That would have met the requirements, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy Lasorso’s creative mind and community mindset.
Recognizing healthcare workers’ desperate need for personal protective equipment, Lasorso collected unused transparency sheets from around the school district, obtained permission to take home 3D printers, and set up a garage workshop.
He and his wife cranked out over 1,000 protective face shields at a cost of $1.75 each, compared to face shields that normally cost over $10 each. Lasorso’s shields were given to local nursing homes, doctors’ offices, hair salons, and hospitals.
He live-streamed and made a video of the production so his students could participate.
The innovative production got the attention of the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, which donated a new 3D printer to help Lasorso expand production. When in-person classes resumed, the 3D printer was donated to Lasorso’s classroom at STC where his students still use it every day.
Lasorso and his family are longtime Rotary members, and the PPE face shield project also was featured on the Rotary International website.
“It gave me goosebumps just knowing that we made that much impact to get noticed by a big foundation and an organization with millions of members,” Lasorso says.
Impactful production that stirs students’ creativity is a staple of Lasorso instructional method.
Using the school’s software and workshop equipment and tapping into their own design styles, students create individual versions of a stylized American flag. Lasorso works with them to ensure the designs feasibly can be produced.
“The Americana project is one that students gravitate toward because it gets their creative juices going and they know it’ll be meaningful for the people who wind up with the end product,” Lasorso says.
From design, they go to advanced equipment, such as a plasma cutter that cuts through metal to make designs created on the computer. Students use a grinding wheel and sander for various finishing techniques.
The finished American flags are auctioned off at an annual car show that attracts veterans and other collectors of Stars and Stripes memorabilia, and raised funds go back into programs to benefit students.
Lasorso would like the community to better understand the relevance and marketability of modern manufacturing career opportunities.
“These are great jobs operating plasma cutters and 3D printers and doing high-level work designing and programming industrial robotic arms,” Lasorso says.
“What I’ve taken from my own educational and career journey is that you don’t have to choose one or the other path and stick with it for life. You can start with a college degree and come back to get technical hands-on training, or start with a program like mine and then get a bachelor’s degree.”
About the Education Foundation of Sarasota County
The Education Foundation of Sarasota County sponsors the Ignite Education: Teacher of the Year annual recognition in conjunction with Sarasota County Schools. The Education Foundation is an independent, philanthropic organization whose mission is to enhance the potential of all students, promote excellence in teaching, and inspire innovation in education, guided by strategic philanthropy and the belief that education changes lives. EdFoundationSRQ.org.