Profile and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Mark B. Valchine II was born and raised in Allen Park, and as one of four boys, he says he learned to fend for himself at a young age. Around the age of 12, his parents, Mark and Tina, decided to move from Allen Park to Chelsea and build their own home. The construction of the family home sparked Valchine’s interest in the construction trades.
Upon graduation from Chelsea High School, Valchine attended Washtenaw Community College before transferring to Central Michigan University. At the age of 19, he acquired his builder’s license and started his own small business—Valchine Construction Services—which he still operates today. While at CMU, he earned his bachelor’s degree and his teaching certificate 7-12 for physical science, industrial tech and vocational education for construction trades.
Valchine’s teaching career began with a student teaching placement at the Oakland County North West Technical Center, where he and his team constructed a home in the lighthouse development district in Pontiac. Upon completion of student teaching, Livonia Public schools hired Valchine as a construction trades instructor. He then took over the homebuilding program at the William D. Ford Career Technical Center where he remained for 13 years until hired by Ann Arbor Public schools in 2016.
Throughout his tenure at William D. Ford, Valchine served as department head, school improvement member, and lead construction teacher; earned two masters degrees (administrative leadership and curriculum development/implementation); and was honored with many regional, state, and national skills USA-qualifying competitors.
Valchine and his wife Kristy have two children: Mackenzie, 5, and Declan, 3. They, along with their mini dachshund “Pokey,” live in Chelsea and are currently building their family home. When he’s not building, he enjoys spending time with his family. His hobbies include woodworking, snowboarding, golf, weightlifting, and tennis.
What inspired you to become a teacher? I was involved in a life-threatening car accident when I was 19. During the recovery process, I was blessed with a team of people that cared for my development, my successful rehabilitation, and me. This experience changed my outlook in many aspects. I feel the care, inspiration, and energy that the team exuberated on me inspired me to be the motivational teacher that I have become. When I learned during my junior year in college that I could teach construction and combine my two passions, well, I hit the lottery.
Do you prefer wearing your construction hat or teacher hat? I have the perfect job; I do not have to choose between both of my passions. The amount of pride I get from watching students achieve more than they ever thought possible is one of the most rewarding gifts my students give me every year. At the same time, to step back and look at a home built or kitchen remodeled stirs up similar emotions with a different sense of pride.
Why did you want to work for AAPS? Running an on-site, student-built home project requires a lot of knowledge, expertise, and support. As a construction teacher, it is vital to have a strong advisory board that is in tune with the real estate market, local contractors, and inspectors. The homebuilding program has an advisory board known as the Ann Arbor Building Industry Program and has been in place and successful for the past 48 years. These members and the AAPS are as passionate about the construction industry, hands-on learning, and the mentoring of young people as I am. I knew that my unique talents would fit in here at AAPS.
Describe an average workday. An average workday on the construction site starts at between 6:30 and 7 a.m. That’s if I did not field a phone call or text from a contractor, my president of construction, or a student. Once on site, I open the house, walk the project, prep the day’s lesson, check e-mails, and have a meeting with Grant, our assistant. Students arrive at 7:45. From 7:45 to 8, the students change into work clothes and we share stories, discuss current events and bond. That rolls into the day’s lesson short presentation. I then have a meeting with the group leaders and assign jobs to their teams before the build session of the class. During the build session, Grant and I work with individuals and small groups until the “ducks quack.” That’s my alarm sound for clean up.
After the first shift, Grant and I debrief and make notes for the next class. I pick up needed materials from suppliers, check e-mails and eat lunch. Then repeat for the second shift.
After school is out we sweep the trailer, complete school tasks, and create the next day’s lesson. I would then attend staff meetings, Builders and Remodeler of Greater Ann Arbor (BRAG) events, and/or catch a student’s athletic game, etc. with the goal of being home at 6 p.m. for dinner with my family.
Who should consider studying home building at AAPS? Any student that is interested in working with their hands. The biggest fallacy is that homebuilding students do not go on to college or that it is only for guys. We prepare our students for both college and a career. While our students build a house they earn college credit at various universities. Through hands-on application, we apply and reinforce concepts from all core classes. We focus on each individual learner through the development of leadership and teamwork skills.
Apps you can’t live without: The construction master pro calculator.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? The look on my students faces when they achieve. the pride they have in the house they built; watching the students grown into young men and woman and becoming confident in who they are as individuals.
How do you recharge? Downtime with the family, a round of golf, woodworking, creating a custom piece.
How do you feel about your students’ getting good job offers before they’re out of high school? It is the highest honor of an educator to know that your students are successful and living their dreams. I embrace the chance to help place our homebuilding students. I have made it a program goal to have every student placed with a local contractor or in the field of their choice. Through the second semester, I focus on employment from resumes to financial planning and retirement. In my opinion, my students getting a good job before they’re out of high school validates my teaching and inspires me.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life?
- The most exciting thing about my professional life is homebuilding and the chance to teach and inspire young people. I am blessed to have the opportunity here at AAPS and to be able to share my unique skill set with the students in our community.
- The most exciting thing in my personal life is moving back to my hometown of Chelsea with my wife and two children and building our family home. It has been a lifelong dream to embark on my family’s current journey.
It’s great to hear about your wonderful work in AAPS. Please say “hi” to your dad when next you see him. He and I were classmates at APHS and I believe graduated together.
Results reflect leadership!
Mark is a great teacher. He has the support of an unpaid and totally committed board of building and educational professionals and who run this as a 501 C3 organization that has proven over its 48 years that THIS WORKS. The superintendent and school board are enlightened to know how important sustaining this program is. The winners? Undoubtedly the students who experience exponential growth in a non-typical educational setting on both a personal and skill level. Ultimately the business and construction community of greater Washtenaw county is the winner as these young people take their place in the workforce and business community. There are no losers here. Way to go Coach Mark! Way to go A2 schools! You rock everyday!