Kirkwood Instructor Helps High Schoolers Build Skills, Networks, and College Credit

Aaron McGlynn never aspired to become a teacher. After working 13 years at a lumber yard and another 13 years as a custom homebuilder, the last job title he thought he would have was “Professor.” However, with nearly 30 years of experience in the construction industry, Aaron ultimately found himself serving as Head Instructor of the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (ACE) Kirkwood Career Academy at the Washington County Regional Center, a role that allows him to make a significant impact on high schoolers in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids (ICR) region.

Aaron grew up in Fort Dodge, Iowa and attended Iowa Central Community College. While growing up, he was unsure of what he wanted to do. After climbing the ladder at a lumber yard, Aaron was selected for a sales role at the company. One of his clients offered him a position working at the cabinet shop he owned and, after declining the offer several times, Aaron finally agreed. He became a manager and construction professional at Cabinet Works in Wellman, Iowa.

After 30 years working in the construction industry, Aaron became the leader of the ACE Kirkwood Career Academy. The Academy, which is open to high school juniors and seniors in the ICR region, includes 4 eight-week courses that range from visiting construction sites, building pizza ovens, launching catapults, exploring various careers in the industry, and much more. This free program includes real-world, hands-on experience and college credit that can’t be achieved in a typical high school classroom. “There is something in there for everybody,” says Aaron. “I like to teach in the way that I work.”

Aaron’s students receive far more than ACE skills. He enjoys connecting his students with other professionals in the industry through the Iowa City Home Builders Association (HBA) and using his own network to help his students grow. Aaron also enrolls his students in the student chapter of the HBA where they can connect with other students who are pursuing a similar career path. “It’s not about what you know, but who you know,” he says.

Aaron finds himself writing recommendation letters, finding apprenticeships, and encouraging his student’s growth even after they leave his classroom. When asked what’s the most impactful part of teaching, Aaron says, “It’s having a kid reach out to me 6 months after he left my class to tell me about his life.”  

Although he does not consider himself like most high school teachers, Aaron is certainly proud to be one. And while his classroom teaching is changing to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, he remains optimistic that his future students will still walk away with an impactful experience and connections that will last a lifetime.

The Kirkwood Architecture, Construction & Engineering (ACE) Academy can help prepare students for careers in ACE fields including (but not limited to): Architectural Technology, Carpentry, Construction, Masonry Technology, Plumbing Technology, or Civil Engineering. Students in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids region (Grant Wood AEA) can enroll in the ACE Kirkwood Career Academy at no cost when registering for classes at their high school. Students who successfully complete the academy will have 12 college credits through Kirkwood Community College that may transfer to a four year college or university.

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