When your students win state championships and get good jobs in their field right after graduation, why isn’t your program the talk of everyone in Bayfield?
If you’re an unassuming guy, like Curt Gillespie, and your place of work is at the very back corner of the campus, it could happen. In fact, the Industrial Arts teacher characterizes his program as, “the best kept secret at BHS.”
That needs to change! And not just because students in Curt’s classes have won four Colorado State championships in cabinetmaking against much bigger schools.
Curt and his team’s tiny house, fully funded by the Home Builders Association of Southwest Colorado
And not only because some of the more advanced students have almost finished building a tiny house—though the little blue home complete with fireplace and front porch is ultra cool.
The real secret behind all these accomplishments is that Curt took over an already strong program in 2004 and pushed it up a level or two. For instance, along with classes in Beginner Woods, Advanced Woods and Drafting, Curt’s Trades N Training (TNT) course, geared toward residential construction, tracks with the national Home Builders Institute’s Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training. This means that students can earn industry-recognized certificates that qualify them for employment in the building industry the day after graduation.
The TNT program uses curricula recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor including textbooks, tests and more. For the all-important hands-on portion of the program, Curt teams with the Home Builders Association of Southwest Colorado. The HBA provides guest instructors certified in various trades—such as plumbing, electrical wiring, masonry and weatherizing—so the “missing pieces” of apprenticeship are covered. “Every student learns a basic set of skills and training in vital concepts such as safety,” Curt explains. They can then go on to earn certificates in the specialty areas that interest them most.
A native of Indiana, Curt is an ideal choice to lead BHS’s Industrial Arts program. As a student, he eagerly soaked up “every imaginable thing I teach now” and more. During his last two years of high school, he left campus every day at lunchtime to join with like-minded students from two other high schools to build a house, start to finish. Curt returned to the program after graduation as an assistant.
Curt relishes his role at BHS, thoroughly enjoying the chance to work with students at all levels. He cheered on a star carpenter of the 2017-2018 school year, Dylan Burress, as Dylan became the Colorado State Champion in Cabinetmaking, and went on to place 20th in the nation at the competition in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Bayfield Education Foundation was delighted to hire Dylan to build a brochure holder for informational pamphlets. What a pleasure to have a small piece of this gifted student’s work and put it to use. It will be mounted soon on the Honor Wall in the main hallway at BHS—go check it out!