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Irma Montiel of F.H. Paschen: “To develop Grit, Never give up, Work hard, Associate with good people, Always keep learning & Have faith”

My high school woodshop teacher, Tim Dugan, changed my life. That summer I mentioned where he taught me so much was the start of my love for carpentry. Dugan made me his lieutenant that summer, and I supervised a team of ten. That summer, Dugan taught me about measuring, framing stud walls, putting up dry […]


My high school woodshop teacher, Tim Dugan, changed my life. That summer I mentioned where he taught me so much was the start of my love for carpentry. Dugan made me his lieutenant that summer, and I supervised a team of ten. That summer, Dugan taught me about measuring, framing stud walls, putting up dry wall, plastering, painting, and putting in wood trim. I loved it all! I was like a sponge and couldn’t learn enough. Further, Dugan taught me patience, to work carefully and well, to work with others, to be organized, prompt, and to give customers my very best. When Dugan learned that I supported my family, he always made sure that I had work around the school. Because of Dugan, I got the job with Paschen and found a world I didn’t know existed. Dugan made me a better version of myself, and I will be forever grateful to my friend and mentor.


As part of our series call “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success”, I had the pleasure of interviewing, Irma Montiel, an Assistant Superintendent at F.H. Paschen. Irma has worked at Paschen for over 20 years. As Irma helped her shop teacher build trophy cases in high school, a Paschen superintendent began renovation work at the school and noticed her talent. That summer, Paschen offered her a job, and since then, Irma has worked hard and proven her readiness for her leadership role today: Assistant Superintendent.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Irma! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?

At the end of my freshman year at Morgan Park High School, my shop teacher, Tim Dugan, hired me to join a crew to work around the school painting, renovating trophy cases, and dividing a large office into smaller ones. I realized how much I loved working with my hands.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

From the time I started high school, I was the sole support of my mother, sisters, a niece and nephew. I guess I learned grit just by not giving up, working hard, and striving to make something of myself. Then, when I started at F.H. Paschen, I was the only female apprentice and certainly the only female Mexican in the group. That can be a challenge.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Honestly, my life has always been a bit hard. It was all I knew, and I just kept going — getting up every day to do the best I could. Since I found the job I love, my drive comes from wanting to be an exceptional carpenter.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Grit got me through apprenticeship, and my hard work was recognized by my superiors. My life is better financially because of my job at Paschen.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

Great! I have just been named assistant superintendent.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit?

Never give up.

Work hard.

Associate with good people.

Always keep learning.

Have faith.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

My high school woodshop teacher, Tim Dugan, changed my life. That summer I mentioned where he taught me so much was the start of my love for carpentry. Dugan made me his lieutenant that summer, and I supervised a team of ten. That summer, Dugan taught me about measuring, framing stud walls, putting up dry wall, plastering, painting, and putting in wood trim. I loved it all! I was like a sponge and couldn’t learn enough. Further, Dugan taught me patience, to work carefully and well, to work with others, to be organized, prompt, and to give customers my very best. When Dugan learned that I supported my family, he always made sure that I had work around the school. Because of Dugan, I got the job with Paschen and found a world I didn’t know existed. Dugan made me a better version of myself, and I will be forever grateful to my friend and mentor.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My success has enabled me to take care of two nieces and two nephews whom I have taught the value of hard work. I have paved the road for them to become leaders through dedication and drive. Also, I teach religious education to eighth graders at my church and am a Eucharistic Minister. Further, I built Advent stands for two churches and made wooden swords, shields and other items for the Stations of the Cross at my church.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to see vocational classes returned to school curriculum. Woodshop saved me, and I know there are many others who would be helped by such classes.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I always tell my nieces, nephews and students to remember to be honest, hard-working people with a need to help others. This will always pay off. It’s how I try to live my life.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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