“I challenge myself professionally to bring real industry experiences into the classroom while establishing a foundation of knowledge and skill. A student is highly unlikely to choose a career path that is unfamiliar to them, so a school should be a level playing field where they can be introduced to current skills in demand.”

Leif Sorgule teaches engineering and technology at Peru Central School in Peru, New York. His coursework marries hands-on learning with technology in the fields of manufacturing, construction, robotics, engineering and more. After an initial career in civil engineering and work as a marine mechanic, Sorgule decided to combine his interest in technology work with his love of helping others to learn and become a teacher.

Sorgule teaches many different engineering and technology classes, so students in his classes have the opportunity to complete diverse, challenging projects. For example, students can bid mini construction jobs in the residential construction class, and design scissor lifts in the engineering class. Manufacturing students develop their own product, create the tooling and process to mass produce that product, build, market and sell the product. Sorgule ensures that each class provides his high school students the resources to pursue a skilled trades career. Students in his classes can earn college credits and technology credentials.

“The emerging workforce needs to focus on integrating cross-disciplinary skills,” Sorgule said. “Technology is changing at rates it never has before. Skilled trades work will also change as those technologies come of age.”

Sorgule arranges annual meetings with local technology teachers and 12 major employers in the local technical trade and manufacturing fields. The goal of these meetings is to learn how to implement changes in his classroom that reflect current workforce demands.

Sorgule has expanded skilled trades education enrollment at Peru Central School. When he began teaching at the school, only three percent of the school’s students were enrolled in a technology class. Today, 23 percent of the school’s students have completed a technology and engineering course. Sorgule believes that the success of a program depends on the presence of an engaged teacher committed to exposing students to industry-level skills and experiences.

Sorgule received his B.S. and M.S. in technology education at State University of New York College at Oswego, and also teaches as an adjunct professor at Clinton Community College’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing.

Sorgule was previously a finalist for the 2020 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“Five years after graduation my students would say that the experiences they received in the technology courses I offer were as close to real life as they could get. Technology courses foster a healthy perspective that doing something meaningful with all your effort feels rewarding. Wherever life leads my students, the determination it took them to learn technical skills will follow.”