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Mr. Werner Schoeck – Granite High School

Dear Teacher Feature,

Yesterday, as I drove by the now vacant Granite High School, I had a flood of incredible memories and I remembered my recently concluded 35th High School Reunion. Wow! Thirty-five years. As I was driving down the road, reflecting about how time flies and I heard your most recent teacher feature nominee on your station. I have been listening to Teacher Feature for years, and every time I hear it I tell myself that I need to take time out to tell you about the one special teacher that made a huge difference in my life as well countless others. This teacher has been retired for from Granite District for many years and I don’t know if Teacher Feature considers former teachers for the nomination. Either way, more people should know about this man because of the number of lives he has helped to shape and in my personal case, redirected my life to a positive path instead of where it was heading. Mr. Werner H. Schoeck would be a most deserving candidate. I will try to briefly explain what he did for me and many others.

I was struggling through high school, just hoping I could figure a way to graduate, but the reality that I felt in my heart was that I probably would not. I was not very interested in school, I sluffed about as many classes as I attended, and I found myself in a group of peers that was up to mostly no good and heading no where pretty fast! When it appeared that time was running out for me to have enough credit or grades that would allow me to graduate, my counselor recommended that I might try to Granite District vocational program. It was a half day class that would allow you to earn 3 credits. It was designed for young men like myself, who were basically lost about what they really wanted to do with their lives and were likely doomed to be drop-outs, drug addicts, criminals, convicts or even worse. This district wide vocational program was designed to teach those in situations like these, a skill that could provide a career path, such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing, painting, or in my case masonry. Together, each vocational class would do their part to build a house, duplex or fourplex that the district would sell after completion and reinvest the profits to help build and improve the program.

My first choice was the carpentry class…full, then painting, electrical and plumbing…also full. The only choice left was masonry. I wasn’t even sure what that was but I was ready to find out! When I showed up for my first day of vocational masonry, I discovered to my surprise that our classroom wasn’t even a classroom. We met under the concrete bleachers at Granite High School, which turned out to be our first project… build walls and enclose our classroom (the bleachers).
Mr. Schoeck (we were instructed to call him Werner) was a big burley German gentleman, who right from the start let everyone in this class know that he was a no-nonsense person and this was work time, not play time. Anyone who was not willing to be part of the team and who thought that this was a free ride to graduation should make arrangements to transfer out now! None did! That was an amazing year for me as I felt a motivation and enthusiasm for school that I had never known before. Each day I was excited to arrive at the job site at 7:00 A.M., where you would always find Werner on the job, well before anyone else arrived, setting up the work environment to maximize efficiency and to ensure the safety of the students. Even on a heavy snow day, he would be there doing whatever was necessary to get the day started on the right foot!

I could tell you stories for hours about the events of that year, about how through his actions Werner earned the respect and admiration of each one of us in that class. I saw in myself and in many others a transformation from a bunch of long haired, lazy disrespectful young kids, to hard working motivated, respectful and most importantly hopeful young men. He helped us to understand the importance of hard work, and at the end of the day to stand back and to see and feel the pride of accomplishing something good and positive. He helped so many open their minds to a clear and bright vision for the future. In every single student he saw the good and had an uncanny ability to help us improve our self-image and strengthen our self worth.

Werner was a fantastic masonry teacher, yes! But he became a “life” teacher and mentor for an incredible number of young men over many years! I for one did not become a brick mason. Werner never did sugar coat the fact that I had a bit of a difficult time building a wall that was plumb and level! He was insightful enough to encourage me to pursue other types of career paths in my life. He did however take dozens of others to National V.I.C.A competitions, usually placing well or winning the whole thing hands down. Of course, he always gave the majority of the credit to the individual who had worked so hard.

Today, I am aware of many successful builders and masonry contractors, some running hug multi-million dollars construction companies because of the skills and work ethic that they learned from this man! But the untold story that I often wonder about is how many others went on to have more successful and happy lives because of their fateful first day meeting with Werner Schoeck under the concrete bleachers!! Hundreds or maybe even thousands I’m certain!

I hope you would consider Werner for this well deserved recognition for the powerful teachings he has given to so many!

Respectfully,
Ken Howe
Class of ‘74