Name: Dan Sunia
Occupation: Manufacturing technology teacher at Petaluma High School. Dan teaches two beginning classes and one advanced class.
Family background: Dan was born in Fort Benning, Ga., and his family moved to South San Francisco when he was a year old. His father was an elementary school principal and his mother worked for Jaguar. He has two siblings, and married his wife, Joyce, a retired school secretary, in 1966. They have two children, Kerry, a registered nurse, and John, the manager of a sheet metal company. Dan and Joyce, who moved to Sonoma County in 1997, have three grandchildren.
Career background: Dan graduated from South San Francisco High School in 1963. Then he went directly into a machinist apprenticeship program at Hunter?s Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco. Dan started out as a laborer at Hunter?s Point, and moved up through the machinist trade. Hunter?s Point closed in 1974, and then he worked at Mare Island Naval Shipyard until it closed in 1996. By that time he was a general foreman and supervised around 200 people. Dan retired in 1997 after working at McClellan Air Force Base, and then went to California State University, Sacramento to study vocational education.
What were some of your interests as you grew up? ?Playing neighborhood sports and working on cars.?
What attracted you to machinist work? ?My first experience working with machines was in a high school metal shop class. At that time, all the boys took wood shop and metal shop classes, and also learned welding and electrical work. I stuck with metal shop throughout high school and eventually became aware of the apprenticeship program at the shipyard.?
How did you begin teaching? ?First, I managed the apprenticeship program at Mare Island. After the base closed, I was looking for something else to do, and teaching seemed to be a natural thing for me.
?So, I began teaching computer applications at Sonoma Valley Adult School, and then, in 1999, I taught in the evenings in a machinist apprenticeship program at the Petaluma High School shop. In 2003, Rollin Gehring, who had been the metal shop teacher at Petaluma High School for 31 years, retired, and I replaced him.?
In 2003, Petaluma High School won a contract to build downtown benches, trash and recycling containers, and bike racks. The work was done in association with Tom Richards? design students and Gene Karas? construction students.
How did the downtown project progress? ?Students produced one bench per day when we were in full production. Since then we?ve been making residential benches for sale to students, their families and the community. We?ve delivered 85 benches.
?Primarily, my advanced students worked on the benches. During the first semester, my beginning class learned the fundamentals, and during the second semester they got a little more involved with bench building.?
The project was featured on television station ABC-7 in San Francisco and a nine-minute video about it was made, in cooperation with the city, Petaluma City Schools and the Sonoma County Office of Education.
Did you receive much feedback about the bench project? ?I get a lot of very positive feedback. I get calls from people as far away as Oregon who have visited Petaluma, and want to buy a bench. People like the benches, and appreciate that they were done by high school students. They?re built to last. I tell my kids that they?re going to take their grandchildren down to sit on those benches. The kids look at me funny, but they hear me.?