A life in Aspen built around a love of teaching, family, community

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Longtime local and Aspen High School woodworking/architectural drawing teacher John Fisher helps student Nunpa Bald Eagle with a project Friday.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

For most people, their job is work. For John Fisher, his job as a high school teacher is anything but work.

“None of what I do is work because I love every minute of it,” said Fisher, who has taught woodworking at Aspen High School for the past 45 years. “I cannot imagine not teaching. …It keeps me young.”

Fisher’s wife of 43 years, Pam, agrees that her husband’s youthful — and never-ending — energy is fueled by his passion for teaching and making a lasting impact on other people’s lives.

“I walked in the shop the other day, and John was working with a student, and I thought to myself, ‘Who is this guy that after 45 years of working with kids he’s still totally elated to be there?’ The joy on his face says it all,” Pam Fisher said.

“None of what I do is work, because I love every minute of it.”John Fisher, teacher

John Fisher, who will turn 70 this week, offered this simple reply: “Yeah, I do love coming to work every day.”

And while the world of woodworking has certainly changed since he began his career in the 1970s, the basic concepts have not — safety first, he implores.

Another thing that has not changed for Fisher: passion.

“John’s ability to connect with students is the result of the thoughtfulness he demonstrates toward students and the passion he has for his craft,” said Aspen School District Superintendent John Maloy, adding that some of Fisher’s work can be seen in products on the Aspen High School campus, including the college counseling office, print shop, bench seating in the gymnasium, and booster club trophy cases. “His work is detailed and professional. He models his passion in every piece he undertakes, and the students see his love in his finished products.”

A tour of the school’s woodshop, where every tool has its place and every nook and cranny is put to good use, shows the fruits of Fisher and his students’ labor; students are making frames and furniture, skis and stand-up paddleboards.

And if teaching five classes — woodworking, drafting, advanced workworking, cabinetmaking/millwork and advanced drafting — isn’t enough for this husband, father, grandfather and friend, Fisher opens his shop doors and lends his expertise to others; most recently, he built the backdrop for the Aspen High School production of “Legally Blonde.” He also has his own construction company, built his own homes, and has given back to the Aspen community in countless other ways.

“John is just the most genuinely caring person I know,” Pam Fisher said. “I think if you asked a million people, they would say the same thing.”

A more modest John Fisher, who just grinned as his wife shared stories of their life together, said the lessons he shares with his students — especially the ones beyond actual woodworking — are what make it all worthwhile.

In fact, a stack of letters, which students write at the end of each semester as a reflection of what they learned, are his pride and joy. Reading through them, statements such as “I feel the most important would be problem-solving. This class made me think outside the box and helped me grow as a person” and “The most important thing I learned was life skills” jump off the page in letter after letter.

“So many people have given so much to me and my family that I am happy to be able to give back,” said Fisher, who has no plans to retire or slow down in his roles as a teacher and mentor, colleague and community member, friend and father. “I really am just joyful every day.”

Indeed, friends say Fisher is the type of man who makes Aspen High School — and the Aspen community — a better place.

“He is simply a warm, friendly, caring person who is appreciated for his work with students and the support he has provided to many in need in the community,” Maloy said.