Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Craig Pelletier’s classes are fun. The 40-year-old Dubose Middle School Gateway to Technology (GIT) teacher explains that GIT is, actually, pre-engineering. Years ago it used to be shop, then industrial technology and, now, GIT.
But not only the name has changed. Today’s students are using Computer Assisted Design (CAD), 3D copiers and creating magic.
Summerville resident Pelletier grew up in Fort Mill, graduated with a BS in Industrial Technology and has been at Dubose his entire career – all 18 years of it.
“My wife is from Summerville and we had the option of living upstate or near the beach…ah, the beach.”
In the middle of his lab (he has a separate classroom) is a trebuchet. He and his students take part in the Trebuchet Contest at The Citadel each year.
To prepare, the students must use their math skills to account for weight, speed, distance, extension of the catapult arm, etc., in order for their projectile to hit a small bucket on top of a structure an, as yet, unknown distance away.
“We don’t know how far away it will be until we get there,” says Pelletier. “Then they take the chart they have made (from many practice sessions in the school courtyard where they varied all the variables) and figure out what all the settings need to be to hit the target.”
Heady stuff for middle school.
In addition to teaching he is also a Lego Robotics coach, on the School Improvement Committee – although he says that is often composed of him fixing things, often with his students.
For example, a golf cart sits in the lab next to the trebuchet. “We fixed the axel on the school golf cart,” he says. “The kids have also constructed the school gate and helped remodel the lab.”
However all this school improvement has not always been simple. His worst school experience, he says, was when he was working in the ball field, fell off of a ladder and broke his back.
“I was very lucky the way I healed,” he says, “and have no lingering issues – can do everything I used to do, but I am more careful these days.”
“My best teaching experience is when I teach a student something, then sit back and watch them do it on their own and then, see them go help someone else…that’s awesome!”
He says he will soon start working toward his professional goal. “It took a couple of years to remodel the lab and rework the curriculum, now I want to branch out and do bigger projects with the kids.”
Like, maybe building an electric car or a solar windmill…tying everything together with what they are learning. “I want to put it all together into one large project.”
Currently students do multiple small projects for each thing they learn. The old ways are not completely gone either. For various projects some students will use new technology and some will do it the old fashioned way with tools.
When not at school he says he is in his workshop in the garage creating things out of wood.
“I am a workaholic.”
He runs his own pressure washing business, and operates a cabinet shop making custom cabinetry and bookcases.
He is also restoring an old Army Jeep.
“I do a little of everything,” he laughs, “woodwork, welding, designing.”
When he does come out of his workshop, he spends time with his wife Susan, their 13-year-old daughter, Gillian and tabby cat Mowgli.
Not into sports, he does enjoy reading “four or five books at once.”
He also cooks almost all the meals and his favorite evening pastime is mountain biking with a head light in the dark especially on the 18-mile trail at the former Navy yard.
Gillian loves horseback riding, he says, and he wants to give it a try.
He also likes kayaking but mostly enjoys building wooden kayaks.
Eventually, he says, his dream is to have a bigger woodworking workshop.
“I can’t imagine not teaching but I think it would be awesome to have my own shop.”
Maybe, he says, when his daughter is grown and finished with college he will build a larger building and start his own business…someday.