After graduating from college build volunteer Mark Allen applied for teaching positions in Sonoma County. During his honeymoon he accepted a position with Healdsburg High School in 1974 teaching Metal Shop. During his career he also taught Wood Shop, Drafting, Crafts, Speech, and US History. Mark enjoyed teaching US History because it was “much more straightforward” and because “I didn’t have to worry about safety.” In his shop classes he kept an eye on safety as his first priority and felt that shop was a great place to teach other life skills besides just the skills required in class.
Leaning back on a chair at the Steele Lane Build, Mark reflected on one such experience. “I taught them trig. I told them I was going to teach them some math and they all moaned, but then when I showed them how it applied they all got it. Then I got to say I’d taught them trig, something several math levels higher than where they were at.” Mark has been able to follow some of the youth he taught and loves to count the number of tradesman’s trucks he sees around Healdsburg that have his former student’s names on them.
Mark “blames” fellow teacher and build volunteer Caren Franci for getting involved in Habitat for Humanity. When asked how he became involved with Habitat, Mark exclaimed “Caren roped me into it. And then when I agreed, she said we started at 7:30am and I said, “What?!!… WHAT?!!” Seven years later, Mark has worked on 10 Habitat homes and 3 rehabs. Recently, Mark volunteered to lead work on Habitat’s second Aging in Place Program in partnership with the North Coast Builders Exchange (NCBE). NCBE has started a program teaching the trades to local high school graduates. Their final project involves constructing a deck for a low-income elderly couple who live in Santa Rosa. Mark said of the young people he is guiding and supervising on the project, “I love to teach, it doesn’t matter who. As long as they’re willing to work hard and to learn it’s a lot of fun. They’re great kids.”
Sitting on the porch of the 13th house Mark has worked on he reflected, “There are two top things that I’m grateful for in this experience. It gives me something positive and structured to do with my time, and I can count the number of Thursdays I’ve missed on one hand! And second, when we turn over the homes to the families, that is a very special moment.”