Educator Spotlight: Aaron Tarsa, teaching building trades.

May 15, 2022

Aaron Tarsa, right, works with a student.

Educator Spotlight: Aaron Tarsa, teaching building trades.

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, Staff Writer.

Educator Spotlight is a presentation of is a presentation of Smith & Eddy Insurance, with offices in Scottville and Manistee, offering discounts for MEA members and school employees.

AMBER TOWNSHIP – The nation has seen a decline in the number of high school students entering the trades field after graduation. West Shore Educational Service District’s Career and Technical Education construction trades teacher Aaron Tarsa knows this trend all too well. Tarsa has been teaching the course for 25 years and prior to entering the world of education, he worked in the construction field.

“My students in the Construction Trades class are all juniors and seniors,” he said. “I started working at CTE 25 years ago as a parapro and eventually took over construction trades as the instructor. Jobs in the trades are in high demand and hands-on training at CTE can lead to great careers in a variety of fields.”

Coming from a family of teachers, Tarsa said he has always felt at home working in education.

“My parents were both educators and great role models in the classroom and at home,” he said. “As a student in their classrooms, I had a front row seat to their passion for teaching and their natural teaching abilities, and that drew me into education.”

Tarsa graduated from a small school district near Traverse City and then attended Lake Superior State University to earn his degree in 1994.

Seeing his students pick up new techniques has always been something Tarsa has loved about working with kids and he loves to see them take the things they learned in his program out into the real world after completing the course.

“Watching construction students gain skills in class is very rewarding,” he said. “Seeing those same students succeed and excel in the trades after completing our class solidifies why we do what we do.  There aren’t many weeks that go by that I don’t see former students succeeding on job sites or in a construction related field.”

Even though Tarsa has been working in this program for 25 years, he said he still feels like there are a lot of people who don’t really understand the CTE programs and he would like to see that change.

“Most educators are very dedicated individuals who care about their students and want those students to succeed,” Tarsa said. “CTE students have an amazing opportunity to train with and learn from high quality professionals in a variety of fields. I wish stories about those teachers, and those students, were told more often so community members would be more aware of the great things happening at CTE.”

Even though a lot of his students go on to work in a trade, rather than in education, Tarsa said there will also be the unique situations in education, where people teach more non-traditional classes, like those offered through CTE. He stated that just like in any teaching position, one must want to be there, especially for the students.

“My advice for students wanting to be educators is to always focus on the students,” he said. “If you model a positive attitude and demonstrate initiative in the classroom, your students will follow your lead.”

With some many of the trades having a harder time finding qualified employees, Tarsa said it’s important of people to know that the students going through his. Program and the other CTE programs are learning through hands-on experiences, from qualified instructors who have put the time into which ever trade they are teaching. Higher educational institutes aren’t for every students coming up on high school graduation. Tarsa wants his students and all students to know if they get a good start on a career while in high school, that can lead them to great things.

“Skilled trades are in high demand, pay a good wage, and are very rewarding careers,” he said. “It’s important for students to have trade skills that will make them an asset at every level of construction. Those skills, along with a strong work ethic, will lead to success in our industry.”

The CTE program is funded by a millage paid for by the taxpayers of Mason, Lake, and Oceana counties and is open to all high school juniors and seniors in the district. Students from Manistee County also attend through tuition. 

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