Chris Stalder, Willcox High School, Arizona
Above all else, Chris Stalder, the carpentry instructor at Willcox 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.”
Before recently moving to Willcox High School this new school year, Stalder was a construction instructor at Queen Creek High School. There, Stalder and his students were heavily involved in SkillsUSA where he coached his students to compete successfully at regional, state and national competitions. In his last year at Queen Creek High School, his students won state in masonry and went on to compete at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville. “We had a student take first place at SkillsUSA and go onto Nationals. 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.
Stalder believes in giving back to the community and assisted his students in the construction and installation of 16 “Buddy Benches” around the Queen Creek campus that give students places to study together, enjoy the outdoors and watch sporting events. Stalder’s students 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. His program at Queen Creek High School also worked closely with the 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. Stalder’s students also took work requests and traveled into the community to customers’ homes to build dog houses, storage sheds that ranged 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.
Stalder helped 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. Some of the internships are paid so Stalder’s students were able to save money for additional schooling or open a savings account all while earning high school credit. Stalder revealed that Queen Creek High 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.”
Students who enter Stalder’s 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.
Now at Willcox High School, Stalder will take the experiences and passion for incorporating safety education into a new program.