“What I love most about being a skilled trades teacher is hearing firsthand from students and parents that this class has helped to make their lives better.”
Eric Wagaman has taught construction at Franklin County Career and Technology Center in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania for 15 years. After entering the construction field to help pay off college debt, Wagaman discovered his passion and spent the next 10 years working in carpentry, masonry and plumbing to pick up new skills.
The switch to education came naturally, and now, 19 years into his teaching career, Wagaman still loves what he does. This year, the Association of Builders and Contractors named him one of the top three trades teachers in the nation. An occupational advisory committee composed of local tradesmen helps keep Wagaman’s curriculum up to industry standards, which includes apprenticeship opportunities, dual credits with several technical colleges, and a host of guest speakers. Wagaman introduces his students to real world experience with large-scale building projects, like building duplex homes in the community and large storage facilities for other trades programs at the school. On average, 95 percent of Wagaman’s class graduates with full-time employment.
Wagaman loves to see the impact his program has had on students, from instilling confidence and motivation in the classroom to watching alumni own their own businesses. Some of these professionals come back to him to hire students from the shop. Wagaman also creates equal evaluation opportunities in his classroom, accepting reviews of his own teaching from students and using their feedback to improve himself.
His greatest pride is seeing his students learn skills that help them make a living while also making their communities a better place. Wagaman was a finalist for the 2018 Prize for Teaching Excellence.
“Learning about construction teaches you how to problem solve, how to communicate with others, how to work as a team, how to work independently, how to get through the tough times. It will help you gain personal confidence and build self-esteem, and it also teaches you how to take a bad situation and turn it into a good one.”