“I believe most of my students would say the most valuable lesson from my class is confidence to try new things and realize they can do a lot more than they realize; after all they didn’t know they could build a house and they did that.”
Matt Blomquist is in his sixth year of teaching construction at Taylorville High School in Taylorville, Illinois, and overall his tenth year of teaching. At Taylorville High School, he teaches the Building Trades curriculum, where his house building program is finishing their 28th house. Blomquist is passionate about creating opportunities for students to experience a sense of accomplishment and instilling confidence for their career and life.
Like many trades teachers, his journey did not begin conventionally right after college. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree with a minor in pre-architecture, Blomquist went directly to work in the carpentry world, and eventually co-owned a residential construction company. The seven years he had spent learning the ins and outs of the industry were a formative time for him that provided the foundation for his teaching career.
Inspired by his minister father and siblings who are all educators, Blomquist took the leap to follow his passion when an opportunity arose to teach the Construction Occupations Certificate at the local prison. After four years of teaching at the prison with Lake Land College, he moved to Taylorville High School to relaunch the Building Trades curriculum.
Blomquist’s house building program is completely centered around the idea that a student could show up and immediately be an asset for any skilled trades employer. Blomquist believes in the idea that “trade classes = all classes”, meaning that his class allows for application of knowledge from all other subjects, but is also transferable to any other profession. Teaching in a mobile classroom that also includes all of the amenities of a jobsite office, Blomquist cultivates ownership in all of his students by giving them autonomy in their daily tasks. “It’s a program where you have to show up and do work or nothing gets done and it’s noticeable when progress isn’t made…it is up to each group (of students) to decide how they will work together with the tools and materials.” However, Blomquist sees growing construction skills secondary to the greater purpose of developing responsibility, accountability, and being a team player, attributes that will lead to success no matter what paths students choose after high school.
The house building program has garnered much attention in the local community and beyond. Students have been able to engage in service projects for the school district and work directly with industry professionals, including getting hired right after their high school graduation. Many of his grads have since become electricians and welders.
Blomquist emphasizes the building sciences in his curriculum, focusing on how homes can also be tighter, smarter, and more energy efficient. He recently completed his masters degree in Construction Management from Western Carolina University and has grown a network of trades teachers, builders, and experts eager to share both in industry and educational knowledge. Each week he participates in zoom meetings with CTE teachers from across the nation.
Blomquist recently won Outstanding Teacher of the Year in his district. He shares that he “really started feeling the impact I’ve made on my current and former students as the congratulations text messages came through minutes after it was announced…It is definitely true that as a teacher we may not realize our impact until a little further down the road.”
Matt Blomquist was previously a finalist for the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.
“It’s very gratifying when I speak to former students from just a few years ago and they are already looking into buying a house at such a young age, and they are already talking about what work they will be doing on it on their own.”