“I love teaching applied, hands-on subjects that all students can benefit from in their future. Not every student is going to attend a 4-year university and I think it is crucial to prepare students with skills to be successful when they leave high school. I want all my students to be successful whether they go directly into the workforce, community college, technical college, apprenticeship program, four-year college, or military.”

Cory Torppa has been teaching high school skilled trades in Washington for 18 years. He inherited a love of construction and building from his father, a general contractor, and a love of teaching from his mother, an educator. Torppa completed his associate’s degree at Lower Columbia College and graduated from Central Washington University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. He currently teaches construction, engineering design, and manufacturing at Kalama High School. Torppa also serves as CTE Director for the district, has taught CAD workshops for teachers, and has written curriculum to help teach applied math in skilled trades courses. He previously developed a construction program where students built storage sheds, ticket booths, park model homes, and portable classrooms.

Torppa works with the district’s CTE Advisory Committee to ensure the school’s curriculum aligns with future career pathways and job opportunities. This year, Kalama High School is offering 26 dual-credit classes and eight industry-recognized credentials, up from only four dual-credit classes just two years ago. Students take on leadership roles as they advance through the program, managing construction and manufacturing projects and mentoring beginning students. They go on field trips to visit industry facilities and speak with skilled trades professionals. Torppa strives to create an inclusive, welcoming environment, helping students learn to their strengths and encouraging them through mistakes to eventual success.

Torppa is also the advisor for Kalama High School’s SkillsUSA chapter. His SkillsUSA students spend additional hours outside the classroom learning technical skills in preparation for competition and have the opportunity to network with skilled trades professionals. Torppa and his SkillsUSA group are also committed to bettering their community – they adopt a family during the holidays, do a spring community clean-up and shed installations, serve as tutors, and more.

Torppa has received numerous awards and distinctions for his work. In 2012, he was awarded the Kelso School District Secondary Educator of the Year and the Kelso-Longview Chamber of Commerce Workforce Education Award of the Year. In 2013, he was awarded the Washington Industrial Technology Education Association Program of the Year.

“It is really important to get to know my students and understand where they are coming from so that I can help them to the best of my ability. My students all learn differently, and I try to provide as many resources as possible to teach to their strengths. It is critical my students know that I care and will do everything to help support them so they have buy-in to my program.”