“Students learn the importance of finishing their work, even if it requires starting over. It is rewarding to see my students’ pride and satisfaction when they successfully complete a project.”

Teaching trades runs in the family for Gary Mishica, a 38-year veteran teacher. His father taught industrial education before him and engaged Mishica and his three brothers in building the family home. In high school, Mishica spent his spare time restoring antique cars, including a 1941 Ford ambulance and a horse-drawn buggy. After high school, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Education from Northern Michigan University.

Inspired again by his father, who believed a rural trades teacher had to be a “jack of all trades,” Mishica introduces his students to a variety of trades, including welding, machining, automotive repair, construction and home repair. Students start out learning the basics of safely operating machinery and completing individual projects like tables, cabinets and shelves. They advance to group work and problem-solving using wood and metal, like restoring a 1962 Chevrolet pickup truck, creating copper and steel sculptures, and pursuing school improvement projects.

Mishica’s students also engage in community service efforts each year, like repairing school equipment, designing and building park benches and building a pergola for a local care facility (the coronavirus pandemic interrupted progress on the latter). More than half of Mishica’s graduating students continue working in the vocational trades after high school.

Mishica continues to improve his skills and keep his course up to date by learning from engineering students, who have helped him teach students about aerodynamics, gear ratios, and more to pursue construction of electric race cars.

“One day, maybe even today, you will need help from a plumber, an electrician, a mason, a carpenter, an appliance repairman, a mechanic, a home remodeling contractor, or other trades professional. We all depend upon their skills in our daily lives. Where do these trained specialists receive their career training and motivation? Their education begins right here.”