North Dakota Instructor on the Move

November 13, 2006
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Instructor Mark Wood, left, gives guidance to student Camden Kretchman.

Whether recruiting, training, or testing HVACR students, Mark Wood - honored with third place in the Best Instructor contest sponsored by The NEWS and the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) - seems to be on the move.

The instructor in the HVACR program at the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) in Wahpeton has been working with his teaching colleague Joel Krause and others in putting together an enclosed trailer filled with HVACR technology to take on recruiting efforts to area high schools.

"We will take the high school's vocational instructors through the (mobile) lab," he said. "The instructors will then allow their students to perform lab jobs and investigate the industry."

Once students are in the college's two-year associate degree program, they don't just stay in the classroom and lab. Each year they take "an extended trip to visit sites that offer large mechanical systems so they can experience different applications," Wood said. A recent such trip was to an ice arena in Grand Forks.

Click on "Quick Stats" for a brief rundown on Wood.

Testing can sometimes be on a grand scale as when Wood accompanied one of his top students to the SkillsUSA National Championship a few years ago in Kansas City. There the student competed against 25 or 30 of his peers in 10 different testing areas over six hours in a huge convention center while thousands of spectators walked by. That student - John Patterson - won top honors, a gold medal, for post-secondary HVACR students.

And there was yet another factor in Wood's Best Instructor recognition: His ability to relate to students one-on-one.

"He always finds time to help struggling students with problems they might have," said Jason Schultz, who nominated Wood. "He shows how the working world operates and strives to get the students to know what they need to know to become the best technician fresh from school."

NDSCS's HVACR program is designed, according to Wood, "to provide to the industry competent entry-level technicians, those who can go along with a crew and fit right in. In a couple of months, they should be able to perform service work on their own.

"I believe the goals we have set do just that. Throughout the year I review these goals with the students to remind them that all of the assignments and lab work are designed to help them achieve the goals."

Wood has been in the industry since 1979 and has been an instructor since 2000. He said, "I like the motto of NDSCS which is ‘Where Students Learn By Doing.' This is why I like to teach in the College of Science."

He keeps active in the industry through the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society where he has earned two Certificate Member Specialist recognitions in domestic refrigeration and gas heating. He also has North American Technician Excellence certification in four categories, has a Minnesota State Board of Electricity Power Limited Technician license, and has taken training programs offered by a number of industry manufacturers.

His students are also expected to take advantage of industry offerings including the Industry Competency Exam. In class, there is a strong emphasis on electrical.

When Wood goes to area high schools to recruit, he does more that just talk to counselors and students. There is a bit of a show as well.

"I take a lot of tools that are cool such as digital thermometers, combustion analyzers, etc. During demonstrations I take a thermocouple and show how it works. I crush pop cans with condensing steam."

He also tries to take along a co-star. "I ask HVACR contractors to contact the schools for us and have a representative present on the day we go to the school."

Publication date: 11/13/2006

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