John Ferraro, HVAC instructor at Manatee Technical Institute, Bradenton, Fla., got started in the industry like many others: helping a friend. “He asked me to help him on a weekend,” Ferraro said. “I liked what he did and he needed help.”
Around 1985 he started working with his friend’s company in New York. “I understood wiring and electronics,” he said. He studied at night to learn refrigeration theory.
The transition to teaching happened after Ferraro moved to Florida. “I went to work for the school board for Manatee County. A teaching spot opened up, and they asked me if I wanted to teach.” He got certified and now is in his 12th year.
He’s still very much hands-on. “I’m still in mechanics, so every day is problem solving” - precisely what he enjoys.
His favorite thing about teaching, he said, is getting phone calls from past students who let him know they got jobs. He also enjoys seeing his students compete in SkillsUSA.
His biggest challenge is the diversity in the area’s student body. “I’ve been trained in ESL classes,” he said. He also works closely with students who, because they aren’t interested in the more traditional educational paths, may have been labeled as special learners.
Another challenge comes from the program’s success (it has grown from 10 to 70 students) “Large classes can become more difficult for one-on-one training,” he said. He wants to find time for every student. Because of this, he is teaching full time.
UNSOLICITEDTestimonials have come from peers at the school, which provides secondary and post-secondary training on equipment that includes a/c, commercial refrigeration, and ice machines.
According to Linda Agresta, assistant director of academics, “He makes every student feel as if they are his No. 1 priority.” Evaluations show that his students love him.
“He has companies come in and recruit for employees,” said Jerry Saunders, teachers aide. “He takes students out in the field to do installs and to service units. He holds night class two nights a week. He offers a class for technicians in the field, and he offers a class on 410A.”
“My nomination for John Ferraro is one that should be looked upon as truly heartfelt, as I can be a very critical person,” said student Zachariah Oke. “I am an instructor and teacher myself. He is, most importantly, patient in his teachings and he continually encourages us to be patient with ourselves. He is good at reading a student’s point of breaking and does not hesitate to take them aside on his own time and build them back up.
“In time spent with each student, he will pinpoint which path that person might be best suited to take and inquires of their own desires,” said Oke. “He really is a great mentor.”
“I feel appreciated when I see my students succeed,” said Ferraro. “I measure myself by how they see me. When they succeed, that means I’m doing something right.”