Technician / Shop Instructor
What is your position in the industry?
I teach at a high school auto shop in Temple, Texas and restore classic cars as a hobby. My restoration skills cover engine rebuilding, customizing, body work, transmission rebuilds, wiring, brakes, and pin striping.
Tell us about yourself. What made you decide to become a service professional?
I've always, always loved taking things apart and putting them back together again. My mom would get annoyed because I would take apart things in the house like the VCR.
I did not actually go to a real high school. I did independent studies and graduated within three years. I was offered a scholarship to a college, and they were like ‘pick a major.’ Around that time, I had helped a friend pull an engine out of a 72 beetle and help rebuild it. I really enjoyed working with my hands, so I decided to go to school to be a mechanic.
I went to community college in San Marcos California where I graduated from their mechanics program. My first job was at a Jiffy Lube. I was walking my dog past a Jiffy Lube, and they had a hiring sign in the window. I applied and got the job.
And then I bought my 64 Chevy Stepside pick-up and I said, ‘this is what I'm going to drive to Texas.’ And I rebuilt the entire thing with a nine sixteenths wrench. Like no power tools, nothing. Everybody kept telling me ‘You’re not gonna make it. You're not gonna do it.’ And so those were just driving words. For me. You know, motivation.
The best shop that I ever worked for was Firestone. When I applied there, they didn't discriminate at all. They asked me the same questions that they asked every other person that applied, simple questions like about brake warpage and, and transmission shutter. They told me that I was the first one that answered them all correctly.
What ASE Certifications do you have?
I have ASE Certifications in brakes and engine repair. I want to become an ASE certified master technician.
Did you have a mentor that helped you?
Absolutely. He was the best instructor that I ever had. Unfortunately, he actually died in the middle of a lesson which is why I had him tattooed on my wrist. He taught me how to rebuild transmissions plus everything that I know about cars. He also gave us life lessons during the automotive lessons. One of his best pieces of advice was that whatever you make, save 10%. He explained that ‘I've saved 10% of everything that I've ever made my whole life and that was how I was able to afford my Corvette.
What advice do you have for a female thinking of going to school or wants to start working in the automotive repair industry?
You just have to hold your own. It's absolutely a very independent type of work environment. If someone tells you ‘You can't do it, use that for more motivation to do it.
The best encouragement is finishing the job, doing it properly, test driving that car and having it run properly and letting everybody else see that you completed the job despite all of the downfalls that you may have had during the repair.
How long have you worked as an Auto Technician?
I worked in the industry as a technician for 11 years before I became a high school automotive instructor.
Why did you decide to become an Automotive Shop Instructor?
Ever since I was three years old it's always been a dream of mine. I thought I wanted to be an algebra teacher and then I wanted to be a history teacher, and after college I thought that one day, I could be an auto shop teacher.
I was at a college for an interview to be their auto shop teacher. High schools were also there doing an automotive competition. Someone from a high school overheard me talking to the woman that was interviewing me to work at the college. One of the high school shop teachers was retiring. Right on the spot they interviewed me for the position at their high school and I got the job.
What do you enjoy most about being an Automotive Shop Instructor?
I still get to turn wrenches and I get to be a teacher. I love the light bulb moment when they get it. I had one student who was assigned to work on drum brakes. He stayed on the job for three days and would not let anyone help him. Once in a while, he would ask me for advice, but would not accept help. He was so dedicated and eventually got all the sub-components put back together.
Do you face any challenges being a female Shop Instructor?
I always asked my students, Do you have a problem with me being a female auto instructor? It's weird. The students don't mind having a female auto instructor. When I speak to their parents, they're like oh you’re the auto instructor? So not the students so much, but the parents, other teachers and the administration seem to look negatively upon it.
Do you feel ASE Certifications are important to have and maintain?
My co-teachers and I use ASE to prepare our students because having ASE Certifications is so important. Even if you are new to the profession, if you go into a shop with ASE credentials without much hands-on experience, it shows that you are serious about automotive.
Do you feel that continuing education is important for technicians?
The whole automotive industry is changing right now. California is going straight to electric cars and Hybrids are more prevalent than ever. If you are not trained and you don't know what you're doing, you're going to get comebacks and a bunch of unhappy customers which will hurt your reputation. So absolutely, continuing education is very important for technicians and instructors. I take classes every chance I get.