Joseph Gargione has taught engineering drawing and architecture at PHS for 11 years. After growing up in Pomona, a town in South Jersey, he attended The College of New Jersey, originally planning to study mechanical engineering. Halfway through his freshman year, he decided to switch to the study of technology education, which led him to later teach small engine repair, architecture, and design at John Witherspoon Middle School. While simultaneously working at JW, Gargione served as a student-teacher at PHS before getting a full-time teaching job in 2004. He is also a track coach for the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, and pole vault events.
What do you like most about teaching?
The students come in and not know anything, like drawing lines and circles, and by the end of the year, for example, [in] Engineering Drawing, [they’re] making computer-animated catapults. [I like] seeing how I can take them from not knowing anything to molding them into these designers to do whatever they want to do.
Do you usually teach the same students more than one year in a row?
I do. The way my classes work is that I have three engineering drawing classes that get funnelled into two architecture [classes], and after the two architecture, they go to the advanced architecture class … However, students can take Architecture if they [take the] prerequisite, my engineering drawing class, or Mr. [Craig] Haywood’s Computer Graphics. Say you take [Engineering Drawing] freshman year— sophomore year you could do architecture, junior year you could do advanced architecture, and if you really want to pursue something in architecture, you could do an independent study your senior year for the first semester.
What are the real world applications of your classes?
In Engineering Drawing, the students are learning to … [create] 3D objects [which] they can use it if they want to become a civil, mechanical, or electrical engineer. In Architecture, they are learning the basic fundamentals of being an architect and designer, both interior and exterior. It gets their feet wet before college. If they want to pursue it, then at least they have that architectural background to help them through it.
What is it like being on your own in your department?
I write my own curriculum, so I am doing my own stuff. That would be an advantage. A disadvantage would be that I have no one to collaborate with [who has expertise in the topics covered in] my class.
What are your hobbies outside of school?
I am a father of two, so that is definitely a hobby or responsibility. I am a track coach here. I have been doing that for six total years. I work out—I have been working out since freshman year of high school, and I have been involved with sports all of my life. [I played] football all the way through college, track and field for three years in high school, baseball, and I have wrestled for two years.
How do you manage your time between coaching and your hobbies and career?
I just get into a schedule. I wake up in the morning, get ready, eat my breakfast, see my kids and wife for a few minutes, and get out of the house and get to school. After school, I have practice. After practice, I get home, eat dinner and watch the boys. It’s just a routine.
What advice do you give students to be successful?
Listen to your teachers, number one. Number two, always do it by yourself, always believe that you can do something. If you think you can and you think you can’t, you are right. So you just have to have that attitude. I can do it. Look, nobody likes doing homework. I mean that’s just what you [have to] do, and do your thing, write your papers. I wasn’t a big fan of writing papers, but you do what you [have to] do. Don’t complain, because the more you complain about something the harder it gets.
How has PHS changed during your eleven years here?
Classroom-wise, my first two years, I was up in the 250s wing. I was mixed in with the language wing, and it was a long computer lab. I was there for two years before they built this addition … the programs have changed. I used to teach AutoCAD and a basic Architecture program. Now it is Inventor and Revit. My confidence has gone up tremendously from a first-year teacher to an eleventh-year teacher. There is nothing that phases me as it would have in the first couple years. The nerves are pretty much gone.
Why do you think students decide to take Industrial Arts courses?
Because it is different, it’s interesting. It’s not your core class. It’s an elective, it’s computer- based, it’s hands-on … And the other thing is, from siblings. I just bumped into one of my students saying he’s telling his younger brother or sister to take my engineering drawing class next year.