Steamboat Springs There are two types of builders: those who build boats and those who build self-esteem.
Johnny Walker is both.
As the applied technology teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School, Walker has spent the past 13 years blending his love of children with his construction expertise.
"This is the most rewarding thing I have ever done," Walker said.
This is Walker's final year in teaching. After 13 years of helping children build birdhouses and boomerangs, Walker is retiring.
"I call it moving on," he said.
Walker has decades of construction experience and plans to work for hire, but he also plans to work for free as an after-school instructor. For Walker, teaching is synonymous with breathing.
"He's definitely an inspiration to me," said Chula Walker-Griffith, Johnny's daughter and a teacher of art, drama and design technology at the high school. "To him, teaching is like an adventure. It's never been any kind of chore."
But Walker wasn't interested in teaching until he left a weekend workshop in Steamboat in 1987. He enrolled at Colorado Mountain College and worked hands-on with teachers here to receive his license.
"I didn't graduate college until I was 42," Walker said. "Of course, I didn't start until I was 38."
It didn't matter. Walker stumbled into a job at the middle school, teaching part-time history and applied technology. Eventually, he became the full-time applied technology teacher and overhauled the program to include projects that teach physics concepts and other projects the students design. Walker's room has become the school hot spot.
"This is my baby, and I'm ready to hand it off," Walker said.