For our season 4 finale of Bucket Talk, we talk with Don Ducharme, who is a stonemason by trade but also is the Director of Career Technical Education at Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School in Danvers, Massachusetts — just a short way from BRUNT HQ. He started doing masonry from a young age but went to school for Medical Technology. After a short career in the med-tech world, he got into teaching masonry at a vocational school, eventually working his way up to administration. Listen in as he chats with Eric and Jeremy about getting into masonry with his father, his intro to teaching and administration, and much more.
In seventh grade, Don started working summers with his father’s masonry business. In college he studied Medical Technology, but his stay in that field was short-lived. He was eager to get back into the trades but also to become a teacher. He taught masonry at a vocational school for seven years and eventually got into administration, where he still works today as Director of Career Technical Education at Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical school in Danvers, MA.
“Many of the trade guys are actually pulled right out of the trades. The week prior to starting to teach, I was laying bricks, then I learned to become a teacher. What works is that everybody has apprentices along the way. So you're teaching guys, when you're in the field, and that kind of gives you the inclination that you'll be good at teaching as well.”
Though he had been a masonry teacher for some time, he now oversees a ton of other departments at the school, giving him the opportunity to reach even more students, though he’s not directly instructing them anymore. He likens it to being a foreman — you manage and lead the folks directly beneath you, and the knowledge trickles down.
“I wish I got into education sooner. To be able to have the effect that I have on students every day. And then the other thing that I've learned most recently is to say, ‘No, this is a job that's 24/7.’ As far as education, obviously, everything we went through with the pandemic has really changed the scope of things. But sometimes it's not about just making the dollar every weekend. It's about being happy, being comfortable in your shoes and that sort of thing.”
Since he is in a position to work with so many kids, he was the ideal liaison for BRUNT to make an impact in the future of the trades. Through Don, BRUNT has been able to cultivate an ongoing partnership with Essex North Shore, donating boots to students in the Carpentry, Construction Craft Laborers, Electrical, Landscape & Turf Management, Masonry & Tile Setting, and Plumbing pathways. And that is, hopefully, just the beginning of a lasting relationship.
“It's really about building relationships. One of the things that many teachers that become administrators are wary of is losing that connection with the students. So instead of you having that direct connection with the students, you're helping many other teachers become better. When you look back at it, you're really helping so many more students. If I help five teachers that have 30 kids in front of them, instead of just helping 30 Kids, I'm helping 150 kids.”
Don doesn’t plan on moving on anytime soon — he loves his current job and is always working to take on more. Not only is that an important character trait as a tradesman, but it makes him an invaluable role model to the hundreds of students that come through his school each year.