Winston-Salem construction trades teacher aims to build his students up brick by brick

What's Right with Our Schools

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — You could say masonry is in Dean Bagnoni’s blood.

The John F. Kennedy High School construction trades teacher said, “From my earliest experience, I’ve been on a masonry job, and it’s very satisfying to build something with your hands, step back and see it.”

His grandfather, great uncle and father all were masons, making him a fourth-generation bricklayer himself. But these days, instead of working on a job site, he’s in the classroom sharing his love of the trade with his students in Winston-Salem.

“I never planned this. I just ended up doing this,” he said. “I always wanted to teach. I just never thought, I’ll be a masonry teacher. To see a kid come in who has never laid a brick and then to see them, see the confidence build in their eyes as they grow into the trade, as they start to build things. And then to see them leave here, just gleaming. You know, that’s probably the most exciting thing about my job.”

Masonry is a skill they can always use.

“A lot of times take a history course. And in two, three years, you forget most of it,” Bagnoni said. “But this, you learned how to lay brick. You have that skill for the rest of your life. And then, you can get a higher wage. When you go to college, you can work for a masonry company. You can go into the field. It’s a great career.”

He adds, “Masonry is a huge field, too. You can go into sales. You can go into management. It’s wide open. Say you’re an architect. You’re designing buildings, but if you’ve done the masonry work, now you can design it with the knowledge of what it takes to put that stuff together.”

And he says there is always job security!

“One of the first assignments is to go out,” Bagnoni said. “I want you to go out and take pictures of masonry, where you see it. It’s everywhere. We’re standing on it. These walls are masonry. This building is made out of masonry. It’s all over the place. It all needs repairs. It all needs rebuilt. New structures need to be built.”

His enthusiasm for teaching and his love of his subject are just two of many reasons Bagnoni was chosen as the North Carolina Homebuilders Association Construction Trades Teacher of the Year.

“It’s a great honor,” said Bagnoni. “You know, they’re looking for programs to highlight, and I feel like there’s probably a hundred other teachers that they could choose, but it is an honor. And, I’m glad to have that light shine on our program. Get more kids interested in construction, learning a skill that they’ll have for the rest of their life. “

He hopes as they gain confidence in class, it will translate to confidence in life for his students as well.

“I love it,” he said. “I hope I can get them to love it as much as I love it, you know? And I think some of them will, but I want them to have appreciation for the trade and for trades in general. That it helps them build their future. And that’s what I want to do.”

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