Moraine Park Technical College carpentry instructor Jerry Schwengels of Fond du Lac received national recognition when Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) recently named him the 2008 National Craft Instructor of the Year. It’s an honor given to an instructor with outstanding teaching credentials and a commitment to preserving the high educational standards of the merit shop construction industry.
Schwengels, who was one of seven regional finalists, will be presented with the national award on March 8 during ABC’s National Craft Championships in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is also the only instructor to win ABC of Wisconsin’s Instructor of the Year award twice, in 1996 and 2007. In addition, the ABC of Wisconsin Apprentice of the Year Award recipients for the last three years were his students.
“It is truly a priceless honor for me,” said Schwengels. “I believe this accomplishment is a synergistic “team award.” He named the dedicated apprentices and employers, fellow Moraine Park instructors and staff, and ABC of Wisconsin as those without whom his achievement would not be possible.
As an instructor in ABC of Wisconsin’s Carpentry Apprenticeship program at Moraine Park since 1989, Schwengels has taught 15 of the 18 apprentices who have placed first in the carpentry contest at ABC of Wisconsin’s annual Apprenticeship and Training Trust Skill Competition. Additionally, 11 of Schwengels’ apprentices have placed first, second or third in ABC’s National Craft Championships. Fourth-year carpentry apprentice Nathan Potratz of Pickett will join Schwengels in Puerto Rico to compete for the national carpentry title.
“Jerry has had more ABC National Craft Championship winners than any other single instructor in the country,” said Wayne Belanger, director of education for ABC of Wisconsin, in his nomination of Schwengels for the national award. “Many of his apprentices have gone on to become leadmen, foremen, superintendents, or even to own their own businesses. A number of his graduates have also become instructors.”
A native of Clinton, Wis., Schwengels holds a bachelor’s of science in industrial education from Winona State University, Winona, Minn., and is a National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Certified Craft Instructor. Having invested in his own education and experience, Schwengels has a diverse background that enables him to teach residential and commercial remodelers, home builders, commercial builders, bridge builders and more. His instruction also includes guest speakers, field trips, presentations by fourth-year apprentices and hands-on theory projects that are done in small groups. According to Belanger, Schwengels was also one of the first instructors to fully embrace the new ABC of Wisconsin Personal Protective Equipment policy.
Apprentices are encouraged to use their skills in service to the community. Schwengels has volunteered his students’ assistance with building projects that include half-scale wood appliances for the Tiny Tech child development center at Moraine Park; an ornate playhouse for the West Bend Builders Association; a reading loft for a non-profit day care center; and a “carpet ball” game for the Fond du Lac Boys and Girls Club. Three of his classes spent a day volunteering for two ABC of Wisconsin projects for the Rawhide Boys Ranch.
“Jerry Schwengels’ dedication to craft excellence truly embodies the ideals of a merit shop construction craft instructor,” said Bill Fairchild, 2008 ABC national chairman. “It is an honor to recognize his efforts to train the next generation of construction craft professionals.”
Jon Waldhuetter, dean of apprenticeships at Moraine Park, added, “Recognition as National Craft Instructor of the Year is an achievement that identifies the best of the best. Knowledge of the industry, a desire to pass on that knowledge to the next generation and a commitment to apprenticeship training – these are the tools that Jerry brings to the classroom. An employer need look no further than the graduates of Jerry’s program to know that these apprentices are prepared to carry on the torch of the skilled trades person. We are proud to have Jerry as a member of our instructional team.”
Schwengels’ award includes the trophy, his trip to Puerto Rico for the national conference with expenses paid by the national ABC, a monetary stipend, a laptop computer and a leather jacket, compliments of the NCCER.
For more information about Moraine Park programs and apprenticeships, visit www.morainepark.edu and click on Academics.