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John Coffinger, Construction Trades

Through a series of serendipitous encounters, Construction Trades alumnus John Coffinger ended up teaching at WSWHE BOCES, the place where it all began.

After completing the Construction Trades program at the F. Donald Myers Education Center in Saratoga Springs from instructors Pat Hammond and Bill LaPolt in 1990, the Schuylerville graduate went on to SUNY Delhi where he majored in construction trades and minored in cabinet making. After returning from summer recess, his college professor asked him what he did over the summer and how much he made. Mr. Coffinger explained that he built indoor horse arenas and shared how much he made for his labor. “You’ll never make that little again,” Mr. Coffinger remembers his professor telling him. “He told me that was well below my pay grade and that he’d like to see me go on to earn my baccalaureate.”

That stuck with Mr. Coffinger and he continued his education at SUNY Oswego where he pursued a career in Vocational/Technical education. While earning his bachelor’s degree he simultaneously began substitute teaching in the Oswego area. He landed a job at the Burton Ramer Technical Career Center in Mexico, NY, and continued his college education to earn a master’s degree. Originally, Mr. Coffinger wanted to get his master’s in special education, but was closed out of the program. Therefore, he ended up earning a master’s in vocational education. 

“Two weeks after graduating, I went to a job fair and was offered a job in Hawaii,” said Mr. Coffinger.  “I researched it and discovered it’s very expensive to live there. So I passed it up.” 

Then, he discovered that the same SUNY Delhi professor who had encouraged him to pursue a college degree was now leaving the college and recommended him for the job. “I was hired as a professor in construction trades and cabinet making,” said Mr. Coffinger. “I loved that job and worked there for two years. It was a very difficult decision to leave, but my wife and I have family ties in this area and my wife got a good job. So we moved back to this area. The next school year, I worked for a year as a teaching assistant with Mr. Hammond, the same class I had been in years earlier at the Myers Center. I taught cabinet making while Mr. Hammond taught rough carpentry.” From there, Mr. Coffinger became one of WSWHE BOCES’ construction trades teacher having assignments at both Myers and SAEC. 

Currently, Mr. Coffinger is teaching Trades in the new Skills Training and Education Program or STEP program at the Southern Adirondack Education Center (SAEC) in Hudson Falls. STEP is a regular education program with a career exploration component. The Trades portion includes Construction Trades, Welding and Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning and Introduction to Machine Tool Technology.

In 2005, Mr. Coffinger was inducted into the WSWHE BOCES Career and Technical Education program’s Hall of Fame. 

“You have to love what you do, and I do. I’m proud of my students,” said Mr. Coffinger.

Mr. Coffinger and his wife have a son and a daughter and live in Greenwich.