“The biggest improvement that I attempt every day is to present a positive attitude. Striving every day to be slow to judge and quick to encourage. Yesterday is only a history lesson of successes and failures. As a father, I strive to see the good in every child and commit daily to teaching from my heart. Reminding myself daily while I’m teaching that I am also a student attempting to learn new things. I employ the golden rule into my classroom, teach unto others, as I would like to be taught. No one likes an old windbag.”
In his 20 years of teaching at Lumpkin County High School in Dahlonega, Georgia, Jeff Bearinger has found that there is no greater calling in life than seeing students grow and reach their potential. After graduating from high school, he studied Aviation Maintenance, earning his F.A.A. aircraft maintenance license and commercial/instrument pilot’s license. Bearinger worked as a mechanic for Eastern Airlines for nine years, during which he continued his education by finishing a BA in Management from Nova Southeastern University. He then went to work as a mechanical field engineer for Bechtel Construction & Engineering, building electrical generating stations for nine years. Bearinger and his wife moved to Georgia, and after successfully launching a pre-school with his wife, realized he wanted to change lives through teaching. He went back to school, earning his teaching certification in construction and business, as well as his MBA. Though initially hired to teach business education, his dream was to teach construction, which he began a year later and has been doing ever since.
Bearinger’s classroom is a warm and nurturing environment as well as a progressive and hands-on learning culture. He shares stories from his unique academic and career path to reinforce to his students each day that they can make a career and love what they do with their hands-on technical skills. He utilizes a National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) curriculum, which incorporates both written and performance assessments. Each day, students are presented a short lesson along with a lab activity that reinforces that lesson. Bearinger emphasizes the power of repetition to reinforce the lesson, and believes that the most effective way to learn is by trial and error.
His students at Lumpkin County High School have participated in numerous community service projects, such as renovating a nursing home and constructing handicap ramps – installing 75 ramps in the past six years. Additionally, every year, Bearinger’s advanced construction students build a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1300 square foot home for Habitat for Humanity that provides them with numerous hands-on learning opportunities and new perspectives. The program celebrated its second bunk bed build in April 2022 by constructing 40 beds for the non-profit, Sleep in Heavenly Peace. Students also showcase their knowledge and skills at regional, state, and national competitions of SkillsUSA and Atlanta General Contractors Association, but also through community charity auctions with The Rainbow Children’s House, The American Legion Post #239, and No One’s Alone (NOA) by providing items such as porch swings, Adirondack chairs, and black walnut benches.
As a teacher, Bearinger is committed to continuous improvement and never-ending learning. Not only does he build his construction knowledge through yearly continuous education classes, but he also shadows other successful teachers three times a year to spark new ideas. Bearinger writes, “When I learn something new, I convey it to the students. The students I teach must understand that the learning doesn’t stop with a diploma. It’s just the beginning.” He frequently has guest speakers from a range of construction and non-construction backgrounds, including energy executives who speak on leadership and the future of energy. He takes them on field trips to various manufacturing plants, water and wastewater treatment facilities, and government agencies.
Ultimately, Bearinger’s students know that he is in their corner, their biggest cheerleader, and supports them even after they graduate. Numerous alums return to ask him to be a reference on an application and continue to support his program through extracurricular community service projects. He hears from former students who thank him for the countless life lessons, believing and encouraging them to chase their dreams of working in construction and carpentry, and being a father to them.
“Every student for the past 19 years teaching construction holds a special bond for me. What a joy and honor to teach students construction along with some life skills and lessons…Seeing their successes while in school but also after they graduate provides gratification that one can only get by being a teacher. Teaching is influence and I’m charged with providing them with lessons that they will carry with them for a lifetime.”