MANATEE COUNTY — Mark Campbell has always been a teacher at heart.
When he was in the U.S. Air Force, he helped train other personnel. As a business owner, he trained his own managers. And as a single father, he taught his teenage son lessons in life.
“Everything I’ve done in life is always training somebody,” he said.
And now, Campbell is working to teach children in East County schools skills they can carry throughout life. As a supervisor at Home Depot’s University Parkway location, Campbell has furthered the company’s mission for helping the community by expanding its “Kid’s Workshop,” program which provides hands-on building opportunities for children.
“I took it one step further,” Campbell said. “I took it to the classrooms.”
On Feb. 18, Campbell and his team will do it again, this time heading to McNeal Elementary, where they will teach second-grade students in teacher Cheryl McGrew’s classroom how to build helicopters. A lesson for first-grade students is planned for early March. Three grade levels already have participated.
“The kids absolutely love it,” Campbell said. “You start to see the kids beaming. The teachers absolutely love this. It’s important because they are seeing all the kids learn different aspects of education.”
Campbell has been building the program over the last year with the support of his supervisors at Home Depot — Store Manager Ron Johnson, District Manager Bernardez Santiago and Assistant Store Manager Chris Dralus.
“They give me full reigns and support,” Campbell said. “I’m just an agent of Home Depot.”
In the program’s first year, he and other agents have visited schools and sites throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties, including Braden River and Kinnan elementary schools.
“I enjoy what I’m doing tremendously,” Campbell said. “This isn’t work. This is what I enjoy.”
Besides working full time at Home Depot, Campbell also is working toward his master’s degree in special education at the University of South Florida, gaining his inspiration for working with special-needs children from his nephew, who has autism.
He’s already certified for grades six through 12 in social science and is a substitute teacher in Manatee County.
“I’m transitioning in life,” Campbell said. “I always wanted to get involved in education, but I’m at a time in my life, where I’m now able to go and live out my dream.”
Campbell said he expects to finish his Exceptional Student Education certification for grades K-12 within the next few months. He’s using the Home Depot project as part of his thesis for school, and is developing unit plans that would meet Florida Sunshine State Standards for Home Depot agents to teach.
“This is just the first step,” Campbell said.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].