Myers Teaches So He Can Learn

November 10, 2008
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At a controls class, instructor Pat Myers (standing) provides input for apprentices at UA Local 447 in Sacramento, Calif. Students built the trainers, which are connected via a network to Johnson Controls’ NAE (Network Automation Engine) front end so apprentices can simulate a building automation network.

Enrollment at the UA Local 447 Apprenticeship program in Sacramento, Calif., has grown over the years, due in part to the reputation of one of its instructors, Pat Myers.

“I know of at least one journeyman who asked to attend Pat’s apprenticeship classes because he saw what the apprentices were learning from Pat,” said Ed Swisher, one of Myers’ fellow instructors at the Local 447 training center. “Of course, Pat allowed him to attend. Pat has also taught journeymen classes at the training center on nights when he wasn’t teaching apprentices. He has taught classes on LEED awareness, computer literacy, Excel, PowerPoint, customer relations, and others.”

In other words, Myers loves to teach. Even though he has been teaching the trade for 22 years and has been a part of the industry for 32 years, it is still a thrill for the soft-spoken instructor when “the light bulb goes on” - meaning, when a student comprehends the material being taught.

“I don’t know of anything better,” said Myers, who finished third overall in The NEWS’ 2008 Best Instructor of the Year contest, co-sponsored by the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). “When you see a student’s eyes light up and you see that he gets it, it makes all the long hours worth it.”

DEDICATED TO THE STUDENTS

And, Myers certainly puts in the hours. By day he is commissioning manager for Marelich Mechanical, based in Hayward, Calif., but by night he is teaching the ropes to fourth-year apprentices in UA Local 447’s five-year program.

“My mornings may sometimes start at 3:30 a.m. and sometimes end at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” he said. “But I’m not complaining. I thoroughly enjoy teaching. I want them to know why we do what we do. I want my students to understand the whole perspective.”

When it comes to training apprentices, Myers’ dedication goes far beyond the time he spends with his class. He has been known to come to the training center on Saturdays to prepare trainers for classes. Myers has personally gone to suppliers he knows and has been able to get them to donate supplies and equipment for use in the classroom. Though he is a firm believer in teaching theory, one-half of the time Myers provides hands-on training in his courses.

For example, he has VAV boxes, on which his students install pneumatic control systems similar to those systems found in many buildings today. They then calibrate and adjust the controls using the air lines that one of his previous classes installed in the classroom. After instruction has been completed on the pneumatic systems, he has his students convert these systems to DDC systems.

“What’s good is that these apprentices come to learn after having a full day of work,” said Myers. “When they come to school, they are extremely motivated to discuss what they went through for the day. The negative side is that some students may be tired after working a full day. A teacher then has to be dynamic.”

Robert Browning II, a 2007 graduate of the apprenticeship program, is thankful for Myers’ guidance. “Pat was one of the best influences on my deciding to take up a career in controls,” said Browning, who is currently lead controls tech for Air Systems of Sacramento.

“Pat not only challenged me in class but he challenged his students to do their very best in the field. He opened a whole new world to me by showing and teaching me about controls in class.

“Pat has one of the best work ethics of anyone in the industry, and I am forever indebted to him for all of his time and effort taken to help me and my classmates move to the next level of this industry.”



While apprentices at UA Local 447 look on, Myers (kneeling) points out the evaporator section of a Hampton low-temperature refrigeration trainer.

LIKED BY INSTRUCTORS, TOO

Myers is forever trying to keep up with the technological advances in the field. He is continually upgrading his own training by attending classes every summer at the UA Instructor’s training program at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich. Even though he graduated from the program many years ago, he still takes new classes every year. Since he spends so many hours driving, he learns while he drives by listening to books on tape.

“The reason I teach is so that I learn,” he explained. “That’s the philosophy I take. There is always something to learn. There are always changes. As an instructor, I believe you have to keep up with the advances in order to know the material and to teach it.”

Myers is not afraid to help his fellow instructors, either.

“Right out of the gate Pat helped me with teaching styles and habits I was not familiar with,” said Phillip Wilbur, refrigeration and HVAC instructor at Local 447. “He took on new subjects I was not qualified to teach and developed a curriculum for those subjects.

“Pat made me want to be a better teacher. I find that to be the highest compliment I can give to a fellow teacher.”

Over the last two years, Myers has worked in San Francisco during the day and has commuted 100 miles twice a week for school. It’s then back to the Bay area either that night or early the next morning to be on the job by 7 a.m. He never complains about staying after school to help a student or a fellow instructor, said Wilbur.

“I am privileged to work with him,” he concluded.



QUICK STATS

CONTEST PLACEMENT: Third place

INSTRUCTOR: Pat Myers

COLLEGE OR SCHOOL: UA Local 447 Apprenticeship program

LOCATION: Sacramento, Calif.

YEARS TEACHING: 22

Publication date: 11/10/2008

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