Class Acts: Q&A With Chris Lacey

Dan Guerra nominated Chris Lacey for Class Acts. Guerra, whose son was in Lacey's class at Livingston High School last year, said Lacey's energy draws others into the subject matter and his enthusiasm is contagious. Lacey's joy of teaching is infectious, and he always has a positive impact on the lives of the kids he encounters.

Name: Chris Lacey

Age: 37

Hometown: Atwater

Occupation: Industrial technology teacher, head football and head track coach

Teaching experience: I have been fortunate to be at the same great school for 14 years. I am teaching automotive, small engines and welding. I also am lucky enough to coach two sports: football and track.

Why did you get into teaching? My mother was a teacher and was always a huge influence on me. But, truth be known, I was not a great academic student through high school and really did not have much interest in anything besides sports and shop. My high school automotive instructor took me under his wing and drove me three hours to Fresno State on a Saturday. He told me this is where I was going to go to school and I should become a teacher. I started off going to junior college at Chabot and found a whole different type of education. This was learning I could relate to. The instructor at the JC was also a big fan of developing teachers, so he spent many late hours with me to make sure I understood the different styles of learning I would encounter in the classroom. I credit the great role models I had growing up that led me to this profession.

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher? Every day is a challenge. Coaching and teaching are two of the most rewarding things a person can do. My biggest joy comes from seeing the success of past students that have honed their craft and become respected people in business. When past students return home from the military or they just closed a huge business deal and you're one of the first people they come back to see, it is a great feeling.

What is the most challenging part of your job? I am teaching a subject that is self-motivating. The most challenging thing I face is time. There never seems to be enough time to really dive into the subjects. In sports, the challenge is easy: get more out of the kids than they thought they had to give. The same is true in the classroom. Make them believe in their own success.

Favorite teaching tool or activity in the classroom: I don't have a specific tool or piece of machinery that is better than all the rest. I just like it when the students can choose the correct tool for the job and use it correctly. Although the welders seem to hold a slight edge. It is fun to watch kids strike their first arc and manipulate a piece of steel to make what they want.

Advice for new teachers: Never give up. Set your goals high and don't let any pencil-pushing administrator tell you it can't be done. Most teachers have great intentions when they first start teaching, but after years of red tape and tied hands they lose their passion. I am fortunate enough to have great colleagues who inspire kids every day.

Advice for parents: Stay involved. Life doesn't have a reset button. Too often I see parents that are always in attendance at their child's sporting events, back-to-school night or other school functions when they are young. Only to find that when they get to high school the kids become too busy and parents lose touch with what they are doing. It is easy to look at a 16-year-old and see a young adult that is always complaining how little freedom they get. But the reality is they are still in need of a lot of guidance and nurturing. I accept the role of helping your child grow, but don't expect the school to raise your child for you. Throw away all the video games in the house and buy them a ball instead. The idea that a kid can push reset and get another try at it is unrealistic and it teaches bad values.

Future plans: I am content with where I am, but I am always looking for ways to improve my coaching and teaching. I would love to teach at a JC.

How do you reach students not interested in school? Industrial classes are the perfect answer to the school blues. We offer fun, hands-on experience that is easy to relate to. Motivating kids in our classes is easy. The hardest part is getting them to leave. If you're not careful, kids will stay in your class after the bell rings.

What would surprise people about your job? The amount of time spent preparing is unbelievable. Coaching is a round-the-clock commitment. Anybody who has been a head varsity coach knows that you're married to your job during the season and still dating during the off-season. If you're going to do it, do it right. In regards to teaching, people are most surprised at how much the kids are able to do. Outsiders shiver when they see kids standing under cars or sparks flying across the shop. Give kids mature jobs and they will respond by being mature.

What did you do on your summer vacation? I enjoy fishing with my father and spending time water skiing. My dad and I have rafted three major rivers in the last three years: the Grand Canyon, Salmon and the Smith River. Spending a week floating the river is a great way to regain your sanity. My dad always keeps me grounded. Contrary to popular belief, coaches don't get the summer off. Between the weight room, conditioning and camps, the summer is pretty short. But I do enjoy what time we do get.