Story by Mary Martin.
You may remember a Dallas Doing Good story about Tami Gamble-Gurnell, also known as The Girly Shop Teacher, last spring. This inspiring construction technologies educator brought together teams of girls to build projects at the Dallas Zoo and the African American Museum.
But starting on March 14th, you’ll see her in a new role as a teacher on the brand new Disney+ show, Shop Class. Hosted by Justin Long, Shop Class is a reality competition with 18 teams of two students and one teacher, designing, building, and testing incredible creations. The show kicks off on February 28th, with Tami’s first episode airing in mid-March.
“The kids were great to work with. Each had their unique story and different walks of life, and they were really excited about the projects,” said Tami “Some kids were creatives themselves and had experience in maker spaces, or had worked with parents on projects at home, but none had formal training.“ Tami’s instruction focused on helping the students use higher-order thinking, suggest tools and materials that could bring their vision to life, and make sure that safety was first priority.
Tami was first contacted by the production studio for the role just after her first Dallas Doing Good feature in April 2019. A Facebook message followed shortly by a Skype interview landed Tami at the top of list. More than 100 people had responded to the casting call, and then the final 18 were selected and began filming the series over the summer. And Tami’s natural charisma even caught the attention of people behind the camera. “At a particular point, I was backstage, someone was watching the monitors and asked me if I was an actress or a real teacher! I assured him I was a real construction teacher and had been laying hardwood floors earlier in the month,” said Tami with a laugh.
While Tami isn’t allowed to share any spoilers, she did say that teams were given random objects that had to be incorporated into the projects and each creation had to have a specific theme while also being functional, safe, and creative. Professional builders, like a Disney Imagineer, served as judges to test whether the project would hold up to its intended use. Alongside the judges, Tami also met Justin Long, who brought his positive energy to the show. “He is always smiling,” said Tami. “Justin admittedly doesn’t know much about the building trades, but as we were working with him he had some ‘ah-ha’ moments when he saw what was possible! And you can tell he loves working with kids and creativity.”
Now that Tami is done filming and back in Texas, she isn’t slowing down. Her next project is taking place on March 28th where she is leading a construction STEAM activation at the Rock Teen Summit. Over 2,000 youth are planned to gather at UT Arlington and make their way through a fast-paced, hands-on, interactive experience. Sponsored by industry leaders like Beck and TD Industries, Tami is thrilled to see so many students experience the bigger story around a career in construction. “I’ve dedicated my career to make sure that kids have this kind of knowledge at an early age. A career in construction requires patience, dedication, and higher-order thinking,” said Tami. “And by doing shows like Shop class, Disney is setting out, once again, as a pioneer.”
This past November The Girly Shop Teacher made her way to Wisconsin for an editorial catalog photoshoot for Duluth Trading Company, focused on real women doing real work. Tami is also working on a set-design project for Amazing Grace, a new production by Soul Rep Theater taking place at the South Dallas Cultural Center. And in the moments between projects, Tami is launching The Girly Shop Teacher Foundation, a nonprofit arm of her work, focused on construction education.
If you’d like to support Tami and the new show, you can join her for a viewing party on March 14th at Lone Star Gas Lofts in downtown Dallas. There will be three separate showings of her first episode along with Q+A sessions.
If you know someone who is Doing Good in Dallas, we’d love to hear about it! Share their story with us.