Gerald Lake constructs community at NC


Ciara Whimbush & Erinn Gardner

Accomplished constructionist Gerald Lake desires to inspire students with acquired wisdom, enthusiasm, passion and dedication. Through his eager attitude, Lake instills in his students a sense of excitement that comes with knowing how to utilize tools for a productive cause. He hopes that no matter what students derive from his classroom— skills, life lessons or advice— they walk away with their heads held high and confidence instilled.

Erinn Gardner and Ciara Whimbush

With a burning passion to motivate others and an indestructible desire to embolden his students, NC recently welcomed Gerald Lake as the construction teacher in the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) Program. Lake serves as a spectacular addition to the community; he encourages diversity, yearns to promote life skills and advocates for women and people of color to immerse themselves in the trade industry. Throughout his life, Lake’s mission has entailed using a hands-on approach to teach his students skills that will stick with them forever, as opposed to short-term lessons that will likely exit their brains as they leave the classroom. Clocking into work every day does not feel like a job for him, but rather a routine that he only gains excitement. Lake wishes nothing but success for his students and community, and strives to do anything in his power to make it a reality for them. 

“I chose NC because I heard it was very diverse and highly recommended by friends who are principals from other districts. The best part about teaching at NC so far has been the kids being engrossed in the construction program and actually taking some pride in what they’re doing. I’ve been a part of a few CTAE programs in the Atlanta Public School system, and it’s a wonderful program. It’s a situation where kids are able to use their hands and problem solve, anywhere from criminal justice to patient care and childcare, and of course construction. One thing I’ve noticed is that when kids are able to problem solve and use their hands to create things, grades in other classes and social issues in the students improve as well,” Lake said. 

The Wisconsin native attended University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for his undergraduate degree and eventually decided to move into education. Throughout his time in the field, he encountered a variety of students from different ethnic, financial and cultural backgrounds. Whilst living in Milwaukee, he helped develop The Choice Program—a program enforcing discipline where they focus on the three A’s: attendance, attitude and academics. Similar to CTAE, the program offers culinary, construction and sports, but in an ROTC military-style approach. 

His dedication to his students ultimately carried over when he moved to Atlanta and attempted to open a restaurant: The Whistling Joint, a place designed to assist students who took culinary classes to hone their skills. According to Lake, culinary students tend to graduate from school and end up in fast-food restaurants, where they cannot effectively advance their skills. However, the to-go restaurant could not successfully take off due to the problems that COVID-19 dreadfully brought to the world. Nonetheless, that did not discourage him from involving himself in other construction programs in Atlanta Public Schools before making his grand entrance to CCSD.

“I started [construction] as a sophomore, and I did it because I’ve always enjoyed working with tools and my hands. Mr. Lake came and he kind of rejuvenated everything, so we’re able to do a lot more projects, we’re doing a lot with our hands which is really cool. Also, that man Mr. Lake is funny, I just enjoy chatting it up. It doesn’t really feel like a class because we’re learning life skills and I’m really enjoying it,” senior center Blake Ellsworth (55) said.

The students that enter construction feel the impact of Lake’s excitement for the craft, and through projects, they begin to adopt that same attitude. So far in the school year, students crafted flower beds, equipment for NC’s baseball fields and pots for the special education classrooms. Students also buckle down whilst building lounge chairs and benches, in hopes that the devices will generate a profit for the construction program. Through brow sweat and hard work, students under Lake’s wing find a sense of accomplishment knowing that the projects they complete in class contribute to improving the environment in and around NC. 

“I joined to get familiar with the trades so when I become an adult, I have those skills handy with me from learning here, and I like coming here during the school day. Knowing the skills will save you a lot of money and it’s just nice doing it on your own. Teachers come by and ask us how much we’re selling our benches for, but Mr. Lake has something planned for them because we just keep creating them,” senior shortstop Kyle Robitzsch (34) said. 

Lake aims to impact the lives, skills and characters of the students to which he teaches, whether his students pursue construction as a career or simply join to learn how to fix a pipe. Above all else, he hopes that through pockets of wisdom carried from his own experiences, he can instill inspiration into every young person that enters his classroom.

“Construction I feel is very important because there are so many retired construction workers and fewer coming into the field, so we need to start promoting the trades. Even if they don’t do the trades, they can definitely use the tools later in their life,” Lake said.