Another school year recently came to a close and this year, so did the teaching career of Building Construction teacher Al Scoles. He has been teaching at Riverbank High School (RHS) for the past 11 years and has made several strong relationships along the way with students, faculty, administrators, janitors and food service personnel.
Scoles has been involved in construction for most of his life and was a building contractor for many years. He did not plan to become a teacher, however; that is where his path led him.
“I had no concept of becoming a teacher,” said Scoles. “It is something that happened to happen.”
In the beginning, Scoles was asked by the school district to take over the building construction program and was in a probationary position until completion of his Career Technical Educational (CTE) credential.
Offering students at RHS two courses, Scoles taught the primary course, an ROP (Regional Occupation Program) Building Construction course and an Introduction to Building Construction for beginners.
“With all the ROP programs you have to have career pathways,” added Scoles. “You start at one place and you work and gain experience and abilities all the way through.”
During the second or third year of his career a ROP Stage Craft Program was developed. His class transformed the old auto shop into what is now known as the Black Box Theatre on the RHS campus. In this class students were taught how to build different sets for the Drama Department.
“The Black Box Theatre does well, it is very functional with a light booth and sound booth,” said Scoles. “We are able to move sets around to different spots.”
With several memorable moments during his career at Riverbank High, Scoles will always remember the students that came back to visit.
A student that graduated three years ago stopped by to see him last week and expressed his gratitude and shared his success.
“He came in to tell me thank you and that he was doing well because of the classes,” explained Scoles. “It is not just because of me but because of the things that we teach.
“Part of what we teach is all the nuts and bolts of the construction knowledge but it is also our place to teach them how to be employable. So that is very important.”
The RHS alum is now working commercial construction in the Bay Area making over $30 an hour.
“It is good to hear that,” stated Scoles. “So the first time you have a kid come back and tell you their success story that is pretty nice.”
Among other projects, the first float that his class built was for Homecoming and it was the skyline of New York City.
“You give them directions and they put it all together,” said Scoles. “It is fun seeing that.”
Although Scoles is retiring, he already has friends and former customers that are asking him about some potential construction projects.
“Retiring for someone in construction is probably a fallacy,” expressed Scoles of people having work lined up for him. “It kind of defeats the purpose of retiring but they are good people and you love them dearly.”
He credits his wife Debi for being an inspiration to him and an incredible teacher herself that taught for 33 years at Cardozo Middle School.
Scoles shared that working with high school students has been wonderful when teaching kids that are ready to learn and challenging when they are a little less focused.
One thing remained the same for him through his career at RHS, though, and that was he had just as many good kids in the beginning of his career as he did in the end.
He will miss the interaction with the students, the camaraderie with staff, and the creativity in stage craft design. He also looks forward to whatever the future holds in his retirement like a 1963 Air Stream trailer that he has gutted and plans to renovate and remodel to take on outings with Debi and their dogs.