TROY — John Seeley of Sylvania chose his career early in life.
Seeley, the shop/CAD instructor at Troy Area Junior-Senior High School, was influenced in his decision by his own eighth and ninth grade shop teacher, Bill Smith, in Troy.
“As soon as I had his shop class, I wanted to be a shop teacher,” Seeley said. “I admire Bill Smith. He’s my hero.”
The admiration is reciprocal.
“I think of John as one of the most memorable students that I have ever had in my 37 years of teaching,” Smith said. “I worked with him to make sure that he had some needed background to get into college, recommended him for admittance to the Millersville University, and helped him to secure his first teaching job. He has remained the same person that I have always been proud of ever since those days in Troy Junior High School, and one that I am always glad to say that he is one of ‘mine.’”
“I loved making the things we made in his shop class,” Seeley, 61, recalled. “My mother wanted me to be a dentist.”
But the dental field wasn’t in the cards for Seeley, who is now retiring at the end of this school year from the profession he entered in 1973.
Teaching isn’t the only work Seeley has known over the years, however. He had his own sign shop in Sylvania and worked in his family’s oil business in Troy. An accomplished wood carver, he made his own carousel horse and is working on another one, as well as a bobcat figure for a carousel, which he is making for his grandson, Ryan Merrell, 7 months.
Seeley said he will have mixed emotions on his last day of teaching, but with all the carving work, he expects to be busy in his retirement.
He has enjoyed working with students at the high school.
“I still enjoy seeing the student finish a project,” he said. He said they like the projects and taking them home.
Over the years, he’s taught the students to make everything from carved wooden spoons to Shaker boxes, a community favorite.
Seeley said the shop program’s acquisition of a laser for engraving in 2009 was a highlight for him.
“This allowed students to personalize something and add something more to it,” he said.
He recalled how the students used the laser to make key chains in memory of two students who passed away, Logan Weed and Jennica Stryker. He said the students made hundreds of memorial keychains.
Seeley is proud of the district’s Auto CAD program, noting there are 24 stations of Auto Desk products at the high school.
“The software has evolved,” he said. “It enables you to draw parts in 3D and put them together and see how the parts work.
“I’ve had a number of students go on to civil engineering at Penn College, a number go into the field.”
Seeley said one thing that has changed during his years of teaching is the focus on PSSA testing.
He thinks too much effort is being focused on the standardized test scores these days.
“We’ve gotten away from valuing the art and craft of teaching,” he said.
He likes the individual experience that results in his classes from working with the students on their projects.
“In a short period of time, the student and the teacher need to interact to get a small project done, start to finish,” he said. “At the end of the project, there seems to be a lot of reward the students get out of it. The individual student seems to get a lot of confidence in themselves, they feel there’s pride in their work, and they understand themselves a little bit better. They’re able to take more challenges, going through the project from start to finish.”
Two Troy students commended Seeley for his teaching.
“Mr. Seeley is relatable,” said senior Hayden Nowacoski, 18, of Columbia Cross Roads. “You can talk to him about anything. He’s a good teacher. He teaches in a way that you want to listen. He understands that you’re a kid, and he makes it fun.”
“He’s a very helpful teacher,” said another senior, Rachel Tice, 17. “He helps with a lot of things.”
Mary Abreu, assistant principal at the high school, who has known Seeley for 25 years, said that “Mr. Seeley is a very kind-hearted soul with a very creative imagination. He inspires kids to be creative and do interesting projects.”
In 1973, Seeley began teaching in Athens, and later went to work at his parents’ oil company. He returned to teaching in the 1980s, teaching special needs kids at BOCES. Then, he started his own sign shop, and began teaching again when he started teaching half-days in Troy. He became a full-time teacher in Troy in the 1990s.
He is ambivalent about his time away from teaching.
“I never should have left it, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t know now what I know now, had I not left,” he commented. “I learned the value of a hard-earned dollar, and just how hard it is to be in business, which inspired me to do my job as a teacher, to show up and do your job.”
Look for Seeley at this year’s Women in the Wilds event in August at Mt. Pisgah State Park in West Burlington Township, where he will be helping his former teacher, Bill Smith, in teaching the participants how to make a bird house.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: reviewtroy@thedailyreview.com