Something new is coming to Camp Verde High School this fall: a building-trades program. Someone new will be teaching the program.
Ronn Lee, a builder and cabinet maker with more than 36 years experience, will teach the school's new building trades courses, including cabinetry, furniture and two periods of beginning woodworking. "It's all brand new," Lee said.
The teacher and the program aren't the only parts of this that will be new. "The whole shop will be brand new," Lee said. "I've got all new tools coming and a new jet lathe that will turn 16-inch objects." Lee said the new equipment includes several commercial-grade saws and a wide-belt sander. "This is going to be a production shop," he said.
Lee comes from Phoenix where he has been in business since 1969. "I do a lot of cabinetry for Sky Harbor Airport," he said. He also does such work for medical facilities and doctors' offices. He also has been in the home-building business since 1963.
The switch from building for a living to teaching seems like a natural transition for Lee. "I was getting burned out, so I retired in January," Lee said. "Then I found out about this opening in Camp Verde. It wasn't a whim. I've been thinking about teaching for five or six years."
Lee said he wants to be able to pass on his knowledge and skills to another generation. He said he has field, shop and administrative experience, and he intends to teach all three of these skill areas to his students.
"What I'm going after is getting these kids to know how to hang a door properly and do trim work," Lee said. "Then, I'm going out to local builders and get them to let the kids come on job sites to do this work." He intends to do the same with cabinet work.
Although this arrangement can be beneficial to area builders and contractors, Lee said the biggest advantage will be to the kids enrolled in the classes. "I want them to be able to go into industry," he said.
Lee said that the kids can learn these skills and then use them to find summer employment while attending college or go straight into a building-trades career.
"These kids can find jobs that will pay $1,200 to $1,500 per week," he said. "I know some guys in Phoenix on framing crews who make $2,000 a week."
Lee said that not only will the school's new shop be state-of-the-art but so will the safety equipment and practices. He has ordered a complete system of safety features for the shop and the new tools.
Lee spent much of the past week working at Mingus Union High School to help Dave Dumas, director of vocational and technology education, do laminate work to finish a remodeling project in three classrooms.
"Ron came on Friday (July 4) and worked 12 hours a day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday," Dumas said. "Then he worked another 12 hours this Thursday." The two men were putting on the finishing touches to counters in a computer laboratory at the school Friday morning.
When Lee is finished helping out with the Mingus project, he has to begin getting his shop ready at Camp Verde High School. That includes more than setting up tools. He will be putting together the curriculum.
"I've thought about that a lot," Lee said. "It'll probably take two to three years to really feel comfortable and be able to adjust a curriculum if I feel a class needs to go a different way."
His primary goal is to make the building-trades classes something that students can use.
"The main thing is to get the kids so they can go out and do this stuff for a living," Lee said.
Staff photo by Philip Wright
Pulling the sticks, is a critical part of laying a laminate counter top. The two surfaces must not touch until they are positioned perfectly. Here, Dave Dumas, Mingus High School director of vo-tech education, behind, pulls the sticks as Ronn Lee positions the laminate. Lee is the new building trades teacher at Camp Verde High School.
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