Chris Stalder, Queen Creek High School, Queen Creek, Arizona
Above all else, Chris Stalder, the carpentry instructor at Queen Creek High School, believes that each student who leaves his classroom should be prepared to enter into a career. “The only thing I enjoy more than construction is teaching it,” says Stalder, “When I first heard about an opportunity to teach students construction, I got really excited. Being able to teach others what I love is what drives me every day.” With over 15 years of experience in the industry, he aims to give his students the chance to gain work experience in a supportive educational environment that allows them to be competitive in the job market.
Students who enter Stalder’s carpentry classes must have a foundation of safety before entering the lab for technical skills training. He puts his students through a demanding month-long safety training program which culminates in a written and practical exam over every piece of equipment in their lab. In order to move on to work in the lab, the student must pass with 100% proficiency. Because the industry requires OSHA 10-Hour safety training, Stalder incorporates OSHA 10-Hour General Industry safety training as a class project. The McCarthy division in Arizona has supported Stalder’s program and use of OSHA training because of how safety oriented him and his students are. “Safety is one of the biggest factors for me [and other CTE instructors]. It’s not about my kids being perfect – that can come with time. I want them to be conscious of what they are doing in the lab and how it can affect everyone,” he says.
Heavily involved in SkillsUSA, Stalder coaches his students to compete successfully at regional, state and national competitions. Last year, his students won state in masonry and went on to compete at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville. In teams of two, his students also compete in Team Building Construction putting their technical and academic skills to the test by incorporating complex mathematics skills. Stalder explains, “We had a student take first place at SkillsUSA and go onto Nationals. This is the first time this has happened in the history of our school as far as I know. We also took 5 out of 6 medals at our regional competition last year.” Each year, his students have continued to score higher on the Arizona CTE End of Program Assessments than the previous year and last year scored as one of the top schools in the state. Last year, one of his students ranked number one in the state on those assessments.
In addition to their competition season, his students are very involved in their community. Their community service work often begins at their school where they have constructed and installed 16 “Buddy Benches” around campus that give students places to study together, enjoy the outdoors and watch sporting events. With the success at their school, Stalder’s students have donated time and materials to build Buddy Benches for local Boys and Girls Club in the surrounding area. The purpose of Buddy Benches is to help foster friendships and identify students who may not have a peer to play with.
“It’s important to them to be active role models in the community,” says Stalder.
His students also work closely with Queen Creek High School’s TOYBOX Program — a fully licensed high school child care laboratory preschool program that staffs students enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Program — each year to provide learning experiences for the preschool and carpentry students. Last year, Stalder and his students planted trees on campus with the help of the preschoolers in TOYBOX. “It is a really fun project for us. We dig out holes for the trees and place them in the ground. The preschoolers fill in with dirt and help get the sprinkler systems up and running,” explains Stalder. Each year, his students look forward to a new project with TOYBOX and getting to involve younger students in community service projects.
Stalder’s students also take work requests and travel into the community to customers’ homes to build dog houses, storage sheds that range from 8x10 to 15x30 feet in size, and other construction projects. “They are doing everything from the ground up to learn every aspect of the building project,” says Stalder. Students are able to build customer service, project management and problem solving skills and expand on their soft skills. By working personally with a customer, students are able to develop and understand how to navigate client relationships successfully.
Stalder helps his students take further steps toward their future career goals by allowing any seniors in his classes to sign up for internships. He has worked with industry professionals like McCarthy to place his students in a program that best complements their career interests and skills. Often these internships lead to employment opportunities and provide good networking for his students once they graduate. Some of the internships are paid so Stalder’s students are able to save money for additional schooling or open a savings account all while earning high school credit. Stalder reveals that his school is partnered with Gateway Community College to offer several college credits that his students can sign up through dual enrollment credit. “They attend my class and when they complete the curriculum and state standards that I teach they are fulfilling the required standards for those classes. They simply pay the required tuition and get the GCC credits.”
Over the years, students have remained in touch with Stalder and shared that their experiences in his class have changed their lives. They have been hired for their knowledge and credentialing and time and again over their peers. For Stalder, it is a priceless gift to know that he is making a difference in how his students enter into whatever career they choose: safe and prepared.