Putting Students on the Fast Track

November 13, 2006
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HARRISON, Mich. - Persistence brought Mark Todd to HVAC instruction and hard work earned him an honorable mention in the Best Instructor contest sponsored by The NEWS and the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI). After spending 20 years as an HVAC technician, Todd began teaching full time in 1993 when the head of the department asked him three times. By the middle of the semester, he was hooked.

"Teaching was not something on my list of adventures to accomplish," said Todd, "but I fell in love with it."

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

Todd, who holds multiple degrees including a master's degree in career and technical education, understands that there is a "huge demand for qualified technicians." Mid Michigan Community College also recognizes the importance of supplying qualified and well-trained technicians. Under Todd's direction, the college has changed its HVACR program to a new, one-year Fast Track program.

"We were losing too many of the second-year students to the industry," noted Todd.

"There is no less class time, application hours, or content than a two-year program, it is just arranged differently."

His classes incorporate 50 percent theory and 50 percent hands-on instruction, along with multiple real-world application experiences, and an internship.

"I am a very strong advocate of education and of hands-on field training," said Todd. "One without the other is not complete."

The program requires that all students pass the Industry Competency Exam (ICE). Each year, Todd and his staff take the ICE results and "tweak each one of the courses, trying to make them better every year."

Todd also spends much of his out-of-class time preparing and recruiting. He visits the five local high schools and two career tech centers in the district.

Understanding that students are individuals is what helps him approach instruction. "It helps to see that all students don't understand the same way," said Todd.

"I have seen a lot of equipment, and I wouldn't be what I am today without the field experience. I have found my niche."

Publication date: 11/13/2006

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