MATTOON, Ill., (WCIA) — High school curriculum normally includes English and math, but one Coles County school is offering a more hands-on learning experience. Dozens of students at Mattoon High School are learning construction skills and putting their finishing touches on a house they started working on in September.
“We build a house every year from start to finish,” Troy Haacke, the construction skills teacher at the high school, said. He’s been teaching building trades for 22 years.
“They get their hands on just about every aspect of house construction,” Haacke said. “From blueprint readings to the safety of the tools to math, then we go into the framing and building the walls and all the terminology that goes with that.”
After eight months of working on the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house in Mattoon, it sold.
“Just being able to see it all finished and everything is pretty good,” Aidan Blackburn, a junior in the class, said.
But, it wasn’t always easy for the 45 students to get there. Blackburn worked on the garage.
“The drywall I feel like was the hardest part to do,” he said.
Michelangelo Reynolds focused on the living room.
“It was a lot to work on, especially with the peaks on the roof and getting everything touched up and squared away,” Reynolds said.
Both students said the class is opening their minds to things they probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. Such as laying the flooring.
“It was the easiest part,” Blackburn described.
Reynolds knows he’s learning skills he’ll use after high school and is thankful for the background knowledge he’s gaining.
Haacke knows no matter what, his students are adding tools to their toolboxes and taking away lifelong skills.
“I like to see the excitement when something works and they accomplish something for the first time,” Haacke explained. “Whether it’s building a wall and learning how that’s done. Or wiring a switch and a light comes on. I think both are pretty exciting for me. It’s rewarding to see what they do in the future.”
This was the twenty-first house built in Coles County. It helps equip students to become construction engineers, start their own businesses, or even become trades teachers themselves.