Chuck Felice

September 12, 2016

Every month in our UCCI newsletter, we feature one of the extraordinary educators we have worked with at the UCCI Institutes and in the UCCI Teacher Exchange. We started this feature so that we could have a way of publicly showcasing how creative, innovative, and smart California teachers are. We archive every issue of the Teacher Spotlight here, on the UCCI website, at our Teacher Spotlight page.

This month the spotlight is on Chuck Felice, Construction Technology Teacher at Salinas Union High School District


In your own words: What do you do, and why?

I teach one Construction Technology course, two Millwork and Cabinetmaking courses and two MC3 (MultiCraft Core Curriculum: Building Scaled Structures) courses. When I was a student at Salinas High School, I had a wood shop class with Bob Burruss, a wonderful teacher who made learning fun. I thought he had the coolest job in the world. He always told students to find their passion in life and then turn it into a job, so that is what I did. I talked to him about the path he took to become a teacher and then figured out what I would need to do. I have taught wood shop for 29 years and I love it to this day!! 

Please tell us about your background (teaching, industry, etc.), and how you apply your experience in your current role as a Construction Technology Teacher.

When I finished high school, I attended Hartnell Community College in Salinas where I was fortunate that they had a very good Construction Technology Program taught by Bob Beery. I took the Millwork and Cabinetmaking and Construction Technology classes from him. Once again, I was very lucky to have a teacher who made learning fun. When I finished at Hartnell Community College, I transferred to CSU Chico. In all of my Construction classes from high school through college, I had teachers that knew how to integrate and infuse academics into their daily lessons. Most of the time we didn’t realize that we were doing Math, English and Social Studies in our classes. I also worked at different businesses while going to school including a furniture store doing deliveries and furniture repair, a construction company framing buildings and painting and an apartment complex working as a maintenance repairman. In each of these jobs, I learned new skills that I use to teach my classes. I continue to visit local cabinet shops and construction sites and ask a lot of questions. Many of my former students work on the job sites and they train me on what is new in the trades. I also learn a tremendous amount from my Advisory Committee regarding the latest trends taking place in the industry.

You were on the UCCI course development team that created the MultiCraft Core Curriculum: Building Scaled Structures course and you have also taught this course. How is this course different from other construction courses you have taught?

I feel the biggest difference is that I try to touch on all of the trades either in the classroom or on a field trip/job site visit. I have implemented new projects in my class that I have not covered previously. We built a “Tiny House”, put together small electrical projects, assembled plumbing projects, conducted energy audits for our school (alongside Ambag), and created small concrete projects. I feel that the biggest challenge is getting everything in throughout the school year. There is a lot of material to cover while still allowing the students time to build projects themselves.

Construction requires a lot of math. Are your students surprised by the amount of math they need to understand in order to succeed in their construction projects? How do you balance covering the construction content and skills students need to learn with the math they need to understand to carry out those projects?

In our academy, we have a Math 3 teacher for the juniors and/or seniors. The beauty is that we work together so that our curriculum aligns with what we are both teaching. When the math teacher is teaching something like rise, run and slope, I teach the students how to layout stairs. This allows students to learn the process the mathematical way and also presents the construction trades method while using a variety of tools. It helps a lot of students understand what is happening in their math courses when they can apply what they are learning with the hands on projects in the wood shop.  Many students make the comment that they did not realize there was so much math in construction.

What are your top three resources (online or otherwise) for learning or teaching Construction Technology?

I think the biggest resource is my Advisory Committee. I go and visit different people from the committee a few times a month so I can stay up to date with the latest trends. The next biggest resource is the information I received from the five-day workshop I attended put on by Tom Moore and Scott Burke from Loveland, Colorado. The topic was Geometry in Construction. It was at this workshop where I got the idea to work on the project for Geometry by Design. It was just a different methodology. They build a house every year and we were building woodworking projects. Then when I heard about the MC3 program, I jumped at the chance to move towards the building of structures of all sizes.

We’d love to hear about any non-academic interests/experiences/hobbies you have, or perhaps related to academics but not necessarily to your current role.

When I began teaching 29 years ago, I taught Earth Science along with construction classes for the first six years.  To this day I still integrate and infuse a lot of science into my classes. Sometimes students will say, “You sound like a science teacher.” I still love science and nature and I enjoy traveling to many state and national parks with my wife and family when I am on break from school. Something I also enjoy doing outside of my job is woodworking. I know this may sound funny, but I don’t get to do much woodworking for myself. It is my job to teach the students how to design, calculate and build their projects. Whenever I can design and build something myself, it is very enjoyable.

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“I've gained more from this institute in regards to curriculum development than any other program I've been associated with in my 12 years of teaching.” 

- Aaron Lemos, Spring 2013 UCCI Institutes