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Teacher turned carpenter lives out dream to build

After 20 years of teaching middle school language arts and elementary fine arts, Miriam Shuros decided to pursue her long-held dream of being a carpenter.

“For many years, I have been interested in architecture design, blueprints, and houses,” Shuros shared in a personal interview with American Experiment. “No matter where I go, my favorite thing to do is walk around and look at buildings, especially the outside.”

Shuros decided to step away from teaching in search of a different career path after realizing she was wearing herself out and needed a change.

“I told myself if I did not have the energy anymore, the positive energy, I needed to stop teaching. Because you can tell when teachers are burnt out and become negative, and I never wanted to do that to my students. That’s worse than not being of service in that field.”

During her last year of teaching, Shuros found herself thinking about what was next and how to make it happen.

“I enjoy working with my hands, and I’ve always wanted to build a timber frame. So, instead of just wondering how it was done, as I had done for many years, I decided to find out where I could learn to build one.”

The North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota had just what Shuros was looking for: a course on how to construct a traditional timber frame. Timber framing construction is a long-established method of building with heavy timbers that are squared-off and carefully fitted and joined together by large wooden pegs.

“My family and I spent nine days learning the craft of timber framing. While I was batch cutting the rafters, I thought to myself, ‘This is what I want to do!’ What a fun conversation that was going to be with my husband. ‘Honey, I loved teaching, but now I want to go into construction.’”

Shuros enrolled in Saint Paul College’s one-year carpentry program in Fall 2017 to learn more about timber framing but also receive training in foundational construction, building, and remodeling. “Saint Paul College lets you attend classes for one week before you are obligated to pay tuition, just to make sure it’s the right fit,” Shuros said. “I knew I was supposed to be there the very first day.”

Carpenters-in-training spend most of their “class” time on job sites, mastering tools and applying their skills to each project. All carpentry work is done for nonprofit organizations and involves either building a new home from the ground up or remodeling an existing home.

Shuros’s first project was with Journey Home—an organization that provides affordable housing for veterans and families experiencing unstable living situations. As a remodeling project, Shuros and her class gutted the inside of the house and added an addition to the back and the front. “We did the footings for the concrete work all the way up to the sheet walls,” Shuros recalls. “It was really neat to leave the job site, see exactly what I could do, and know that my work was helping people.” Shuros also renovated a kitchen and built a shed for Homeward Bound, an adult foster care center.

This past July, Shuros received her Carpentry Diploma.

“My first solo project is already underway,” Shuros said. The timber frame she and her family made last summer will soon be raised for a sauna area in the backyard, and she recently finished presenting the blueprints and estimates for an addition onto her home to her husband.

“I have been training to build, and I am so glad I get to live out my dream.”

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