Chris Garzella teaching a student
how to set up a table saw.
Written By: Tom Philip, Future Building Trades Teacher
Many people think of a Construction Trades class as a dumping ground for the “less equipped” and problem students. Chris Garzella is trying to change that stereotype, and have a positive image for the building trades industry.
Chris Garzella, a veteran teacher at Van Buren ISD in Lawrence, Michigan, is doing his best to educate the youth in his class and bettering his community by giving back at the same time. He is an educator in the building trades. He has an average of 40 students per day and with partner teacher Joe Stegman. Garzella has the students once a day for two and a half hours.
Each year with the instruction of Garzella his students build a very nice home and donate it to Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for humanity is a non-profit cooperation that helps homeless families into a safe, affordable, and decent home. Habitat has been around since 1976. Chris Garzella has been donating his class project of a house to Habitat for many years. For Garzella the experience of teaching students the trade of construction is very rewarding.
Garzella teaches his students many things from start to finish in his Construction Trades. The class starts out each year with assessing each group of students and gathering how much prior knowledge they already possess about construction. After this has taken place Garzella starts by teaching how to build a house from the ground up. With working with Habitat for humanity the foundation is already poured and or the basement is already in place. Garzella starts by working from the foundation up. With this challenge he has to start by building on temporary risers so when the house is finished it can be moved and placed on the in place foundation. Garzella teaches the students about how to layout a plan and communicate ideas from paper plans to a wood building. After the basic layout is set up, Garzella teaches students how to safely and correctly use hand and power tools. Garzella requires students to wear safety glasses at all times in the lab; this is his first and most important rule he said. He also has students be prepared for real world situations, he teaches them about how to work in teams to get goals accomplished. As the houses progresses and gets more built such as framing and a roof on, Garzella teaches students individual trades such as plumbing, electrical and drywall. This usually takes more time because of this has to be put in correctly to pass the inspections by the city building inspector. Also with the interior work, Garzella teaches students about fine wood working not just rough carpentry. All of the cabinetry is custom built. With woodworking students learn to be more precise with wood and have an aesthetic appeal when finished. When the inside is complete Garzella does the outside last. The house is built in two halves because of it is not possible to transport a house that large down the road. Due to this there is just water proofing on the exterior such as Tyvek House Wrap, the siding will be finished on site.
After the house is set on site and secured to the foundation, the water and electrical is that hooked to the house and the house is sided. Then it is complete and ready to move in. All in all Chris Garzella and his classroom is doing a great service for the community and teaching his students along the way. It is the best of both worlds.