As the winner ofThe News’ “2000 Best Hvacr Instructor of the Year” contest, let me share the real guts of why I think my school’s program works.

These insights come from interacting with a number of other hvac instructors locally, and those at the spring ARI Instructors Workshop hosted by Leslie Slander.

Lack of Students:

First of all, many instructors have shared that they are scrambling for students, with typical enrollment at one half to one third of what it was 10 years ago. As a result, many programs have been eliminated or reduced. In contrast, our school has tripled enrollment in the same time period with waiting lists for most of the classes.

The HVAC Training School focuses on evening and Saturday classes. Most of our students are adults, with an average age of 41.

By accommodating their needs, our school has attracted more motivated students. One would be surprised at the number of people that want a career change and to get into hvac. And with motivated adults, there are no discipline or behavior problems.

Lab, Not Lecture:

Most classes seem to start in a classroom with a lecture. Most students seem to tune out and much time is wasted, both the instructor’s and the students’.

Don’t lecture; use short demonstrations and then have structured lab projects. And for Pete’s sake, don’t talk too much.


On the first day of class, we give each student what is known as their “Task for Success” sheet. It has approximately 150 hvacr tasks for which each student must demonstrate competency. “Demonstrate” is the key word here.

All 150 tasks must be mastered before certification is granted.

Screw The Homework:

The students we get are mechanical types. Asking them to read and answer a lot of homework questions is, well, what can I say.

These guys are in the trades, not college. Have them review the books after they’ve had shop time. It’s always easier to understand what the book says after you’ve done it with your hands.

Our guys do better at understanding the use of a wrench more so than a notebook. Lab preparation is the key to your success and theirs.

No Questions, Just Answers:

Some educators really believe that they are obligated to answer some guy’s question on something that just popped into his brain, if the student has not thought the question through or put any effort into solving it himself. This is just backwards.

It the student gains knowledge without making any effort, he’ll forget it sooner. We should ask questions of the students and have them come to us with the answers. They don’t have to respond immediately, but we need to get a report in a reasonable amount of time.

Short-term training:

We’re all busy, and our students are too, especially if they already have a job and family commitments. Respect that.

Keep your classes short, focused, and to the point.

Our graduates have been tested by ARI and have a 94% pass rate on standard exams. This is accomplished in four months of night school.

For more information, visit (website).

Publication date: 09/10/2001