Ketchikan High School. (KRBD file photo)

A Ketchikan schoolteacher is asking the school board for a year off to study homebuilding and guitar-making. A teacher that calls himself a “jack of all trades” says he’d like to take next school year to master a couple new ones.


Todd Henke says he’s devoted the last 12 years to teaching students all manner of practical skills, from woodworking to engineering, welding, architecture — even English.

He says he’s largely self-taught.

“A lot of the different areas I’ve taught, I have, I’ve had to learn in order to teach, or just learn along with the students,” Henke said in a phone interview Wednesday.

He says he hopes to attend two certificate programs at institutions in Utah to expand his formal expertise.

“I have a lot of the experience, but some of the the theoretical knowledge, and just make sure that I can teach with better confidence, more clarity, more accuracy,” Henke said.

He says he first started making guitars while teaching on Alaska’s North Slope and rediscovered the craft after schools went remote last spring. Henke says after he completes the Luthier Master course at Utah School of Guitar Making, he hopes to share the craft with Ketchikan High School woodworking students.

“We could probably even do it as a standalone class, because you might get some students who are interested in that, but may not be interested in woodworking otherwise,” he said.

He’s also planning to study building technology, or homebuilding, at Bridgerland Technical College. He’d take an eight- to 10-month course where a group of students build a custom home from the ground up. And he says he’d like to bring a similar program to Kayhi, though it would require significant investment and changes to the district’s career and technical education program.

“My vision would be that we could actually take a group of students and throughout the year, build a home, or, like, a tiny home — or even do just significant remodels within the community,” he said.

The superintendent’s office recommends approving Henke’s request for a sabbatical. He’d be paid half his usual salary during his absence. Ketchikan’s school board is scheduled to take up the request Wedensday.

In other business, the school board will consider recognizing Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, February 16, on the 2021-2022 school calendar.

It wouldn’t be a day off for staff or students. But Board Member Diane Gubatayao said at the board’s last regular meeting that she’d like to see the district recognize the day in 1945 that Alaska’s territorial governor signed the landmark civil rights law Petratrovich championed.

“I think it would be nice to acknowledge it as a holiday locally, and on our calendar officially,” she said at the board’s Jan. 28 meeting.

The draft 2021-2022 school calendar would also keep the district’s early-release day on Friday. Early-release days were originally scheduled for Wednesdays but were moved to Fridays in 2020.

The school board meeting gets underway virtually at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Members of the public will have an opportunity to address the school board at the beginning of the meeting, but they must register by 1 p.m. Wednesday by calling the board clerk at 247-2142. Written public comments can be submitted to the clerk by email at and will be read aloud. The meeting is broadcast at the borough’s website and live-streamed on local cable channels.