“Watching students graduate and become responsible productive citizens in our community is an amazing feeling.”

After graduating from the University of Indianapolis with a bachelor’s degree in education, Chad Sutton found himself unable to secure a teaching job. Drawing on his experience in the construction industry—he had worked as a laborer during summers growing up—he secured a job with a lumber company, growing his expertise in construction and finally starting his own remodeling, new home construction and light commercial company.

When his local high school had an opening for a construction teacher during the recession of 2008, Sutton made the transition to teaching at Garrett High School. Through a special career-oriented academic program, students in the Garrett-Keyser-Butler Community School District start exploring construction and manufacturing as early as fifth grade, selecting career paths in their junior year of high school. Those career paths shape their academic course load—English, math and science are incorporated into construction classes and vice versa. Six hundred students are part of the program, and Sutton also serves as director of career development for the Garrett-Keyser-Butler Community School District.

Sutton’s high school program focuses on four industry areas: construction trades, advanced manufacturing, horizontal construction and architecture engineering and design, with each pathway providing students 18 to 22 college credits through Ivy Tech Community College, where Sutton serves on the construction curriculum board. “Watching students graduate and become responsible productive citizens in our community is an amazing feeling,” Sutton wrote in his application.

Students also leave with up to seven nationally recognized industry credentials, more than 1,200 hours of on-the-job-training, and meaningful connections to industry professionals in the region. Drawing on his experience in the industry, Sutton partners with more than 50 local businesses to provide students with work-based learning opportunities. He is a regular speaker at conferences and workshops hosted by the Association of Career and Technical Education and the National Center for Construction Education and Research, where Sutton also serves on the education and workforce development committees. Sutton was a finalist for the 2019 Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“What I love the most about being a skilled trades teacher is to see a student begin to develop skill and ability they did not know they had.”