ACE Academy instructors honored, as first cycle of students near graduation

See why this program isn’t your daddy’s ‘Shop Class’ – and discover how East Multnomah County students are learning valuable skills in architecture construction and engineering, while earning their high school degree …

In this building – the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute – the “ACE Academy” has been education and training students who want to learn the building and construction trades and professions.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Unique in the Pacific Northwest, the tuition-free charter high school “Oregon Building Congress Academy for Architecture, Construction and Engineering (ACE Academy)” will be graduating its first class in June.

“ACE Academy” teaches junior and senior students from school district partners Centennial, Gresham-Barlow, Parkrose, and Reynolds – students who have demonstrated an aptitude and expressed the desire to learn construction trades…an education which they receive from industry professionals. This shared-time program allows students to participate in traditional social and sports activities on their respective local high school campuses.

These juniors, nearing the end of their school year at their respective schools, David Riehl, from Barlow High, Darren Ward also from Barlow, and Vyncent Espinoza, Jr. from Reynolds High, show off a detailed scale model of a new home, during the Oregon Building Congress Awards Banquet held on April 8.

More than ‘shop class’
At a meeting to recruit the first students for “ACE Academy” more than two years ago, Michael Taylor, the educational director at the school, explained to the then-sophomores and their parents that the school isn’t just a glorified “shop” class.

“At the Academy, you’ll learn from experts in the industry on some days; but on alternate days, you’ll continue your high school experience – participating in educational and social activities,” Taylor told them at an orientation meeting.

“For a project to be successful, it’s not only up to the architect designing it; it’s also up to engineers who make sure it will be structurally sound. And, their designs can be realized only with the work of skilled carpenters, sheet metal workers, electricians, plumbers, and every kind of labor, to make sure that the building is constructed properly,” Taylor said.

> To read our story about this orientation session, CLICK HERE.
> To read our story about the school starting its first session, CLICK HERE.

Andrew Brinser, a senior at Centennial High School and “ACE Academy”, explains a training project on which they’re working on, to guests Nathalie Weinstein and Ben Bracelin – both with the Daily Journal of Commerce.

Students graduate with job-ready skills
At the Oregon Building Congress (OBC) Banquet and Awards on March 8, held at the school – housed in the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute building, at 4222 NE 158th Avenue – several students were on hand to show off projects on which they’ve been working.

“This is one of our senior construction projects,” said soon-to-graduate student Andrew Brinser, as he showed off a “training center” that he’d helped build.

“We go to places like the IBEW Training Center to learn electrical wiring, and other places to learn plumbing, sheetrock, and how to install doors and windows. Using this, we learn to hang sheetrock and doors, put in windows, and install wiring and plumbing.”

Working on this one-story model, Brinser pointed out, was an easier – and safer – way to learn about building roof systems, than by dangling off ladders, high up on a building.

The school’s Educational Director, Michael Taylor, stands behind the OBC “Pete Anderson Technical Educators of the Year” –ACE Academy instructors Erin Butler, English; Marjan Rotting, architecture and science; Doug Mella, mathematics; and, Randy Scott, engineering.

Founding ACE instructors recognized
Over the past few years, one of the Oregon Building Congress’ major projects has been to sponsor and to help establish the “ACE Academy”, Michael Taylor told us. “They were the original sponsors that brought together the design-build industry and East Multnomah County educators, to create and operate this charter school.”

At the annual banquet, Taylor added, “They recognize folks who have made a contribution to education that contributes to the workforce and the betterment of the industry – architects, engineers, and especially construction workers.”

As part of the OBC awards banquet, presentations of the organization’s “Pete Anderson Technical Educators of the Year” award were made to founding “ACE” instructors Erin Butler, English; Marjan Rotting, architecture and science; Doug Mella, mathematics; and, Randy Scott, engineering.

The award inscription read,

“Working long hours, these educators created a road map on how to conduct a program of study including project-based learning, credit by proficiency, and the integration of technical and academic courses. They dared to do the difficult, and they have been rewarded by enthusiastic responses from both students and parents for their efforts.”

With about 165 students currently enrolled in the program, Taylor said, “ACE Academy” is turning out to be the valuable resource they’d hoped it would be.

Learn more
As this school year draws to a close, Taylor encouraged high school sophomores from the Centennial, Gresham-Barlow, Parkrose, and Reynolds School Districts – who are interested in the construction trades and professions – to learn more about their program. “We expect our incoming junior class for the next school year to fill quickly.”

To learn more, visit the “ACE Academy” website: CLICK HERE.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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