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Tuning Up for Success
Custom-made guitars!

Do you remember that teacher you adored? The one who could make every student feel “seen” regardless of their background or skill-level. The one who could teach life lessons, but not in an elitist or pretentious way. The one who remembered your name from year to year and made an effort to ask about how you were doing.

For many, remembering that teacher’s face is as easy as adding 2+2. We are fortunate to have a number of these standout teachers at Asheboro High School. One of those is Mr. Scott Smith.

Teaching is Mr. Smith’s second career. He has taught a number of Technology classes at Asheboro High and South Asheboro Middle School over the past four years. In his previous life, Mr. Smith was a small-business owner in downtown Asheboro. Mr. Smith owned and operated Able Custom Signs for nearly 15 years before selling the business to pursue teaching. Now, he fits right in to the family as his wife, his mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law are all educators. Not to mention, he’s an AHS alum from the Class of 1992! 

“Teaching allows me to connect with kids, while continuing to maintain friendships and business partnerships in our community,” said Mr. Smith. “Most recently, my students have engaged in a community-based project incorporating Math, Literacy, Art, Engineering, and Design."

During the summer of 2016, Mr. Smith completed at 70-hour STEM-based workshop on how to design and build electric guitars. “The workshop was a great experience and I thought this would be an awesome project for my students.”

Although appropriate for the students in his advanced Technological Design class, Mr. Smith wanted to make this project more than just building a guitar. He wanted his students to engage in a business venture, a true partnership between supplier and client. Thanks to a list of 1,400 plus clients he had from the sign shop, Mr. Smith was able to connect his students with local business owners whom he had relationships. 

“Our first venture was with Mr. Sam Ramsey, owner and operator of both Chick-fil-A locations in Asheboro. I know Sam from way back. He’s a talented musician and he has a heart for philanthropy,” said Smith. The students in Mr. Smith’s class contacted Mr. Ramsey by writing him a hand-written letter requesting a meeting to discuss a new “business venture.” When Mr. Ramsey agreed to the meeting, he arrived at AHS to meet three students who were dressed professionally in business casual attire. They escorted Mr. Ramsey to a conference room, where they asked him if he would be interested in sponsoring an educational project. Upon agreeing, the students began to pitch their idea of designing a custom Chick-fil-A guitar for Mr. Ramsey to play or for display. Without hesitation, Mr. Ramsey was on board.

Additional meetings with other local business leaders followed suit. Students met with Tyler Wilhoit of Keller Williams Realty; Robbie Cox of Cox’s Harley-Davidson; Patrick O’Hara of the Randolph-Asheboro YMCA; and Buddy Britt of B&B Carolina Cleaning Services. Each local partner agreed to allow students to build custom guitars for their businesses.

“By engaging in meetings with actual business owners, students were given the opportunity to experience a 21st century business meeting – something that many kids do not experience until well after their college years,” said Smith.

The next step was the design process. The students had to understand what their client wanted to see on the guitar. “For a client like Mr. Ramsey, there are very specific graphics and colors to be used for Chick-fil-A. But for someone like Mr. Wilhoit, students had the ability to be more creative during the design phase,” said Smith. Once each client had devised their “Wish List” of design elements, the students in Mr. Smith’s class then collaborated with the students in Ms. Frazer’s Art class to develop three to five prototypes for each client. “We referred to the students in our Art classes as our ‘Art Department,’ just like you would if were running an actual business with a graphic design team,” Smith added.

After the design was agreed upon by both parties, then Mr. Smith’s students moved to the build phase. Each guitar had a team of three dedicated students who worked daily on the build. One student would take the neck, one student would take the body, and the third student would work on calculating the operational costs of doing business. The students would then rotate day after day, until the finished product was complete.

“Upon completion, we presented the guitars to each business owner and asked them to post to social media,” said Smith. In his post, Mr. Tyler Wilhoit said, “Today, I received one of the coolest gifts ever. His (Scott Smith) high school students embarked on hand making guitars and man if they did. Scott Smith, you and these kids outdid yourselves. Thank you and very proud of you.” 

When Patrick O’Hara from the Randolph-Asheboro YMCA received his guitar, he had this to say, ”What a surprise when Scott Smith, CTE Teacher at Asheboro High School, shows up with a handmade personally designed YMCA guitar made by his Technological Design class. A big thank you and shout out to Scott and all the students who made this guitar for the Randolph-Asheboro YMCA! We are so excited and appreciative of this gift!”

“It’s super cool to see the kids light up when they hand our business partners their guitars. This is definitely one of the neatest projects we’ve been able to complete and we look forward to continue building these custom guitars for our community,” said Mr. Smith.

This story is more than just one about guitar making; it is about a teacher making his students feel valued, accepted, capable, and worthy. It’s about project-based learning at its best. Mr. Smith is a rare gem and we are so proud he chooses Asheboro High School to work his magic!