SYRACUSE — As he has been this time of the year since 1994, Ed Waltz, building trades instructor for Wawasee High School, is busy helping to put the finishing touches on the project house and also preparing for the annual banquet and open house. But this year has a much different twist to it.
Earlier this year, Waltz decided to retire at the end of the current school year. He has been the building trades instructor for Wawasee since August 1993.
Waltz was actively involved in his family construction business, Waltz Building Service, based in Rochester, and had also done some youth sports coaching. The building trades instructor position came open in 1993 when Roger Thornton was superintendent of the school corporation and Waltz applied for it and was hired.
Certainly during a span of 26 years, much has changed in building trades. One big change is students can earn college credits through Ivy Tech. “That wasn’t even a thought when I first started,” Waltz noted.
The demand on the curriculum is “a lot more intense,” he said, and the state has redefined some things, a process of which he was a part of. Expectations have increased with building trades too.
One of the more recent changes has been the state pathways program allowing for students who have six credits in a career and technical education class to still graduate from high school even if they don’t pass standardized testing.
Waltz added another change coming is the size of homes being built will be downsized. This change is being made because of the increasing classroom requirements for students.
He said he has enjoyed working with kids and especially seeing the maturity level of the juniors develop (building trades is for juniors and seniors only), something he noted has happened many times through the years. “When they are seniors, I want to use them as leaders,” he said.
Some of his former students are now working in construction jobs and a few even own a business.
Retiring came down to timing and a major factor is a grandson will be graduating from high school in 2020. “I always had a goal to be able to retire in order to see him graduate,” he said.
Additionally, he feels it is time to step aside for somebody younger who can relate better to students using their electronic devices so often. “We need somebody who can use that to the kids advantage,” he said, noting he finds it frustrating to deal with the electronic devices, but he emphasized he is not retiring because of that frustration.
Future plans for Waltz include traveling with his wife, Maria, and working part-time in the construction industry, an industry he still enjoys. “I have enjoyed the product changes and the new tools to work with through the years,” he said, adding those tools have increased the capabilities of what can be done at a building site.
He hopes to see the building trades program continue because “the demand is huge now for carpenters,” he said.
Waltz admitted speaking at the building trades banquet May 9 will be somewhat difficult and when August arrives in a few months it will be a big adjustment period. “I’ve been so used to preparing for that time of the year,” he said.