Retiring wood shop teacher shared his craft

By MAUREEN DAYE Correspondent

 Charles Kirkpatrick, who has taught wood shop at Allentown High School for more than 20 years, is retiring with many good memories of the young people he taught. Charles Kirkpatrick, who has taught wood shop at Allentown High School for more than 20 years, is retiring with many good memories of the young people he taught. Charles Kirkpatrick will retire from Allentown High School with treasured memories. Kirkpatrick, who is a wood shop teacher at the school, will retire today, June 20.

The majority of his 37-year career teaching wood shop — more than 20 years — has been spent in the high school.

Known by the nicknames “Mr. K,” “K” and “Kirk,” Kirkpatrick is intelligent, well-respected and well-liked by the students and staff. He understands his impact on his classes, and the importance of wood shop.

“You can’t turn on the television without seeing a do-ityourself program,” Kirkpatrick said. “People want to learn how to redo homes, properly use tools or build a piece of furniture. This morning one of my students said to me, ‘You know, it sounds corny, but I like to be able to create something with my own hands.’ It was a big deal to hear that, and it will remain in my mind.”

Kirkpatrick has a treasure trove of memories, but he created his own favorite memory each year at Christmas time.

Each year, Kirkpatrick would tell his students he was going to stop everything he was working on to create wooden toys to give to disadvantaged children in a shelter.

“I would say you don’t have to do this, but you will feel good when you are done,” Kirkpatrick said. “Everybody would want to get involved. They would feel fantastic. We all do what we can. That’s what life is all about.”

Allentown Principal Constance DiNicola Embley realized the impact Kirkpatrick had on people.

“Kirk is a great teacher and a great man,” Embley said. “He has touched the lives of so many students and staff members over the years. He had his students make wooden toys for underprivileged children for many years to donate to homeless children during Christmas. Kirk will be missed, and I wish him the best life has to offer.”

After spending many years at Allentown, Kirkpatrick witnessed changes in the makeup of wood shop class.

“The truth is that the students in wood shop class are literally older now,” he said. “That’s because the state has so many requirements. Kids have to take so many classes that it has eliminated the possibility of a freshman taking an elective. I understand there may be a reason for requiring courses, but they are strangling students’ chances to choose.”

Wood shop is important because it gives students exposure to skills that are useful in life, and sometimes it is their first experience with those skills, he said.

“One day students will own homes and need skills rather than relying on others,” Kirkpatrick said. “It is really unrealistic that they might not have exposure to wood shop.”

The decision to retire came at the beginning of the year once his wife retired. Kirkpatrick realized he would like to pursue some of his interests, such as scuba diving.

In addition, he plans to spend more time developing his craft business and selling his crafts at craft fairs around the state. His specialty is crafting natural woods in patterns and creating everything from pens to walking canes and wooden bowls.

“I am actually developing a following on the craft circuit,” Kirkpatrick said. “People are collecting my pieces.”

Just about the only thing Kirkpatrick will not miss is the daily commute to Allentown from his home in Haddon Heights, Camden County.

“I will miss the kids most of all,” Kirkpatrick said. “After they graduate, many of them come back to say hi. They can still contact me through my website. I will miss the faculty and the administration. I like them. I have been around, and they are good professionals who have not forgotten the kids. It is not just a job to them. They care.”

Kirkpatrick welcomes anyone who is interested in his crafts to check out his website at