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Editor’s note: This story has been updated since first publication
By Peter Vankevich
Many visitors to the island wish they could live and work here.
Jeff Schleicher is one of those people and is happy to have had the opportunity to have done so for the past six years.
A graduate of Ohio State, prior to coming to Ocracoke, he taught at E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Va. for 20 years and retired. His career also includes working in the nuclear energy industry for 10 years for Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Operations Group, maintaining nuclear and steam generators. During that time, he worked throughout the country and abroad.
After his retirement, he didn’t expect to teach again.
But one day, while sitting at Ocracoke Coffee with his family in 2010, he learned the school was looking for an industrial arts teacher.
“My daughter-in-law told me to at least go over to the school across the street and check it out,” he said.
He did and met the school principal, Walt Padgett, who gave him the hard sell, and soon he was back in the classroom.
Schleicher was pleased to pass on his knowledge to island students—both boys and girls.
“Since there is not much industry on the island, our goal was to teach students skills they can use here when they graduate, as well as taking jobs on the mainland,” he said.
So, he taught his eager students all he knew, allowing them to take the lead and build all kinds of things that interested them and projects suggested by the community, including a new shell boat for the Pirates Chest, signs, jig-sawed pieces, even replicas of the lighthouse.
Schleicher encouraged the students to do what interests them.
“The favorite thing I made was a metal bumper,” noted Grant Jackson, an incoming senior who works at Jimmy’s Garage.
Earlier this year, prompted by the Ocracoke Mosquito Control Board which supplied all the materials, the students built bat boxes to help islanders contain mosquitoes in a natural way. To read the story, click here.
He is particularly proud of continuing improvements to the program begun by his predecessor Roger Meacham.
Ocracoke’s “shop” class now has a 3-D printer, a CNC laser machine and various lathes which puts the school on par with much larger schools.
“I think we have done a wonderful job,” Schleicher said about his students. “I loved teaching at Ocracoke. The students were great and the support of the community for the school is truly amazing.”
And Padgett was happy to have had Schleicher on the team.
“He has done a fantastic job teaching the kids real-life skills, and he will be greatly missed,” Padgett said.
Islander Gary Mitchell, the founder of the contemporary folk band Molasses Creek, has been hired to teach industrial arts, subject to the approval of the Hyde County Board of Education.