Skip to content

Former Central grad receives prestigious award from Alberta engineering technology group

Jim Pinches never expected to become an educator after graduating college with a certificate in engineering technology, but his unique and humorous teaching style has earned him a prestigious award.

Jim Pinches never expected to become an educator after graduating college with a certificate in engineering technology, but his unique and humorous teaching style has earned him a prestigious award.

Pinches, who graduated from Central College in 1973, received the 2024 Outstanding Educator Award from the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET) during its recent annual meeting for his efforts as an instructor at Lethbridge College. 

ASET recognized the former high school athlete for demonstrating excellence in teaching, educational innovation and commitment to the advancement of knowledge and technological studies. 

An ASET member and certified engineering technologist who works in the survey and geomatics discipline, Pinches is renowned and respected for his unwavering support of his students’ successes in and beyond the classroom, including mentoring and advising them.

“It’s a very special moment for me,” Pinches told the Express. 

Pinches thought it was great to receive the award because one of his former students — and a past president of ASET — called and asked if he could nominate the former Moose Javian for the award, to which he agreed.

Once news of the award hit Facebook, hundreds of alumni began commenting and congratulating Pinches, which he thought was heart-warming since he never realized how much effect he had had on his students.

Meanwhile, the instructor appreciated that his provincial engineering technology peers wanted to recognize him for his efforts.

“I didn’t go out seeking out (the award), but … (it’s) nice to take that moment and see the recognition (and) appreciate it,” he said.

The former Moose Javian had never won anything of this magnitude before but did receive a student-nominated award in 2008 for his service to learning. 

After graduating high school in 1973, Pinches worked at a less-than-fulfilling job for five years before his wife suggested he take the engineering technologist certificate at Saskatchewan Technical Institute (STI), which later became the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) and now Saskatchewan Polytechnic. 

He agreed since he enjoyed math and geometry. After graduating, he worked in Regina for a year before they left for Lethbridge in 1981 because his parents had moved there and told him the Alberta government was hiring. 

Pinches worked in the industry for 24 years before deciding that a career change might be nice, and around that time, he learned about a survey engineering technologist position at Lethbridge College.

“I had worked with young adults at my church, so I enjoyed the energy and curiosity of that age group,” he said. 

Furthermore, he enjoyed talking with people and discussing the history of surveying in the Prairies, so he applied, had an interview, and landed the job. 

Pinches has worked at the college for 20 years as a field lab instructor, which means being outside with surveying students on the coldest and hottest days. He has also created mnemonics to help his students remember calculations. 

“I enjoy (teaching). I like the challenge of finding the teaching method … or whatever concept makes (the subject) clearer,” he said. “Maybe 90 per cent of students will get it one way, but for the other 10 per cent, you have to come at it with a different view or explanation.

“So, crackin’ that nut so that everybody comprehends it and the lights come on when everybody gets the idea or concept I’m trying to get across.”

Pinches “has become legendary” for his unique teaching style, which employs humour, over-the-top drama, and singing and dancing to add levity to the learning process. 

For example, he created a rap song to convey the proper order students should follow for doubling an angle when using a modern surveying instrument. He hoped this helped them remember it better during their exams.

“I like doing drama, and … I am a humorous fellow,” he laughed, noting he has a loud voice because he started when there were no walkie-talkies or radios to communicate in the field.  

“Also, students are often under stress as they try to balance their homework loads or are feeling homesick or they’re just lonely … ,” he continued. “I just try to keep it upbeat and light.”

Reflecting on his life, Pinches said he was grateful to thank his high school math teacher during Central’s 100th anniversary in 2010, while he wished he could have thanked an STI professor before the man died.

“Time is fleeting,” he added, “and we should thank people sooner rather than waiting.”

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks