Jim Kroll (left) of Virginia Highlands Community College makes a point during a lab training session.
Continuous improvement is something that Jim Kroll applies to himself, his HVACR program, and his students. An instructor at Virginia Highlands Community College (VHCC) in Abingdon, VA, Kroll is described by a former student as “relentless in his efforts to ensure the students have every advantage possible during their training.”

A 26-year HVACR veteran, he believes in being certified in all areas in which he practices and teaches: ARI-EPA universal; IMACA-EPA mobile; ICE-residential A/C and heating, commercial refrigeration; NATE-A/C installation and service, air-to-air heat pump installation and service; RSES-heat pump service technician; and Virginia master tradesman certification as an HVAC professional, electrician, and gas fitter. He also holds a contractor’s license and still does occasional maintenance, service, and repair work.


Kroll attended VHCC as a student. Nine years ago he returned as an instructor to pass along the knowledge he gained in the field.

“VHCC’s program is 50% classroom and 50% lab,” he explained. “Our lab is for student use, not for equipment display.”

He noted that he has received a number of donations of equipment through the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and that the school has a broad cross-section of units available. “If we do not have new equipment to install, we rotate existing equipment to different areas, to build our students’ skills with recovery equipment, piping, wiring, brazing, and charging.”

Kroll takes classes on field trips to local suppliers and a local manufacturing facility. Contractors and suppliers are invited to the school to talk with students.


He has designed an HVACR program brochure and a Web page, and he sends an annual newsletter to contractors and suppliers. He participates in and gets assistance from local contractors with an annual middle school career fair, and also makes recruiting trips to high schools.

To gain additional funding, he’s worked with VHCC’s grant writer to tie Perkins Funds to the ICE and EPA exams. “This has resulted in several purchases of audiovisual and software training materials. This also pays for the student fees to take these exams.”

Another former student says of Kroll, “Within 10 minutes into his [classroom] introduction, it became clear to me, and I am sure to my fellow students, that Mr. Kroll is a serious and skillful man who loves his craft and relishes teaching others the theoretical and practical aspects of HVACR installation, maintenance, and repair — done the right way the first time.”

Publication date: 09/09/2002