Shop class project gives Divide County student a license for confidence

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 1:27 PM CDT
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DIVIDE COUNTY, N.D. – It’s almost summer. School activities are wrapping up, students are preparing for final tests and bringing projects home.

For one Divide County mom, this is the first time her son has had a project to bring home. Until now, his autism has kept him from completing many assignments.

Now, a special connection between teacher and student finally allowed him to finish a project and build confidence.

Montana might just be Ransum Zaug’s favorite state.

“Billings is a good town!” he laughs with his ag education teacher, Colbey Steek.

The 14-year-old knows the capital of all 50 states, and he has a license plate from each one.

And now, he’s even taken an interest in building things.

“Ransum is Mr. Handyman now,” said Steeke, who teaches ag education at Divide County school.

Ransum’s latest project: a desk, covered in his beloved license plates. It is one of the first school projects the Divide County seventh grader has ever done.

“We can’t get him to do art class because he doesn’t like the texture of things and he doesn’t like to stay in the lines, so mom has never really gotten too many projects,” explained Ihla Wolter, who has been Ransum’s para since he was in fourth grade.

“I’ve been wondering where we’re going to put this desk,” admitted Ransum’s mom, Taleah Zaug.

Ransum has autism, and at first, the shop and the tools were a little overwhelming for him. But, once his teachers came up with this idea, Ransum was all in.

“How do you make the wood smooth?” Steeke asked Ransom. “He he uses a sander now.”

“He wants to learn,” said Taleah.

This project not only built Ransum’s confidence, it also reminded his teacher of the importance of connecting with students.

“It’s really cool to see that ag education has a home for all kids,” Steeke said. “Seeing the growth in my students and the skills that they develop and the knowledge that they gain. For me it’s just unbelievable.”

Ransum isn’t done yet. He’s hoping to use the rest of his license plate collection on a chair to go with his desk.

Ransum has also started collecting Canadian license plates. So far, he’s only got Saskatchewan but he’s hoping to find a set from each province.

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