Building My Always and Forever: From No! You Can’t to I Know I Can!

Building My Always and Forever: From No! You Can’t to I Know I Can!



October 26, 2017

By Tami Gamble-Gurnell, Construction and Building Trades Instructor at Duncanville High School in Duncanville, Texas

Building My Always and Forever: From No! You Can’t to I Know I Can!

I was 6 years old when my mom remarried this grand, tall, muscular, teddy bear and kind man.  Who still to this day is my larger than life super-hero.

It was 1977, Always and Forever by Heatwave seemed to play endlessly on WJLB radio. My parents purchased a real fixer-upper on the east side of Detroit.  The house was “luxuriously” decorated with black walls & shag carpet, it was inhabited with a variety of rodents, and had the “lovely” aromatic fragrance of dog poo.


Every evening after school my family and I would go to the house to demolish, clean or repair something.  By this time I was in the second grade and excited about having a larger room.  Every day I would jump into the project at hand, my parents would say, “No! Stop! You can’t do that.”  However, my juvenile mind declared, “I know I can!” I was fascinated by the drill.  Changing out drill bits became a game of speed. I didn’t like getting paint on myself, so I made it my personal challenge to paint without a drop or splatter.  I practiced hammering nails in as few strikes as possible.  Soon I became my daddy’s trusted sidekick.

The years passed quickly.  My dad became an NCCER certified instructor and taught in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  I remained his trusty sidekick as he took on outside renovation projects. To my circle of friends and family I was known as “Ralph”, homage to the late Jackie Gleason TV character Ralph Kramden.  Strangely, I never considered my love of the building trades an occupational option; I simply viewed it as a hobby.


Four years ago my life took a major twist.  My hair stylist referred me for a position as a Construction Teacher for the public school system. Within a week I found myself deciding between offers to teach Building Trades and Construction at two different high schools.  As fate would have it Duncanville High School made the best offer. Today, I am a Certified CTE-Building Trades and Construction Teacher at Duncanville High School.  My students work from the NCCER Curriculum and I am able happily able to pass on my love of construction.  I have been upgraded from “Trusty Sidekick” to “Super Hero-Construction Teacher”.  My daily challenge is to make learning construction fun and exciting.  I am overjoyed by every light bulb moment my students have when learning new concepts. Today’s goal is to become a NCCER certified instructor because I KNOW I CAN!