Building a house is not a classroom activity found in most high schools. But several decades ago, students routinely built houses in Leland "Cap" Mentzer's classes at Medford High School.
Mentzer taught manual training at Medford High for forty years. His courses included woodworking and architectural drawing. But when he was hired in 1920, a school board member told him to teach the boys practical skills, such as cement work and carpentry. His students promptly built a garage next to the school. Other structures followed. They built prefabricated garages that they trucked to a site and erected, only charging the buyer for the cost of the materials. In later years, they built prefab houses. Mentzer inspired some of his students to become professional builders and architects.
A graduate of the Oregon Agricultural College, Mentzer initially received $2000 a year to teach at Medford. Throughout the years, he and his shop followed the high school as it relocated about the city. His first shop was in a basement corner. In the 1930s, it was housed beneath the auditorium stage.
"Cap" Mentzer's retired in 1960. But the innovative "real world" education he pioneered continued to be taught by others and remains an important part of his legacy.
Jewett, Dick, "Teacher Helped Shape Local Construction," The Mail Tribune, June 6, 1985, pp. 10-11.