Instructor Sees Success Stories

November 5, 2007
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Bill Matthews (left) and Ray Peters are first- and second-year instructors, respectively, at Linn State Technical College. Matthews is the third-place winner in The NEWS’ 2007 Best Instructor.

LINN, Mo. - Bill Matthews has a pretty good job. Very good, in fact. He is an HVAC instructor at Linn State Technical College, located 90 miles west of St. Louis. His students are learning how to keep up with the rapidly changing world and better yet, they are in big demand by HVAC contractors throughout the region. There is a waiting list to get into the two-year HVAC program. And the icing on the cake? Matthews has been selected as the third-place winner in the Best Instructor competition sponsored by The NEWS and the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute.

That’s a lot of positives for this instructor and the overall program at Linn State. And all of the accolades are well-deserved. Victoria Schwinke, Linn State Dean of Instruction, said of Matthews, “He has successfully chaired the HVAC department, building the program into an exceedingly awarded and highly regarded degree program in the HVAC industry.

“Mr. Matthews clearly motivates students based on the results of the 2006-07 Student Evaluation of Instruction (SEI) survey. On a four point Likert scale where 1 equals strongly disagree and 4 equals strongly agree, HVAC students had an average response of 3.83 for instruction and 3.90 for course.”

“Bill always encourages his students to do their best,” said fellow instructor Ray Peters. “Bill was instrumental in achieving three national accreditations: HVAC Excellence, PAHRA, and NAIT.”

One very important indicator of the HVAC school’s success rate is a 10-year study showing a 98.6 percent job placement related to the area of study.

“If the student doesn’t have a job lined up before graduation it is extremely rare,” said Matthews. “If a company comes down here looking for our grads after March or April, there are no kids left.”

MAKING TRAINING SPECIAL

Matthews’ success started long before this year’s award from The NEWS. In his 32 years as an instructor - 22 at Linn State - he has won several awards including the Vocational Instructor or School Award from RSES in 2007, and his recognition as a Who’s Who among America’s teachers in 2002-2004.

“We get a lot of publicity for our awards,” he said. “Our admissions office does a lot of recruiting, too. This year, 30 students wanted to start with us, but we can only take 22, figuring that two will drop out, which happened, although those two went into apprenticeship training. We have a waiting list to get into the program.”

Perhaps one reason for having a waiting list is that many of the current and former students refer family and friends to the program. Matthews said that one of his second-year students has a younger brother in his first year of the program.

Some of the students don’t even make it into the second year because they are hired right away by employers, impressed with their credentials. “We have a 14-week internship between the first and second year,” Matthews said. “Almost all of the employers who sponsored an internship have asked for them back or asked them to work when they can while in school.”

Matthews also hears from former students who are part of the program’s 180-day report, which tracks graduates and gets their feedback on how they are doing. Several of his former students are on the HVAC school advisory staff. He joked, “I even get calls at home from former students on some problems but most of the time we will advise that they call their employer.”

Matthews said that young students today are motivated by money, while the older students want a good-paying job with security. He wants more people to know about the wages and security available with an HVAC career and believes it is the industry’s responsibility to spread the word.

“We need to get out there and show people about HVAC,” he said. “It is more than changing a part. You better be good on a laptop or computer and be able to diagnose a problem. If you don’t have the training you will not be able to make it in this trade.”

Obviously, that type of training is alive and well in the HVACR program at Linn State.

QUICK STATS

2007 BEST INSTRUCTOR: THIRD PLACE

INSTRUCTOR: William “Bill” Matthews

COLLEGE OR SCHOOL: Linn State Technical College

LOCATION: Linn, Mo.

YEARS TEACHING: 32

Publication date: 11/05/2007

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