Shawn Maynard (right) works with one of his RETS Tech students in the school’s lab. Lab work and lecture are supplemented by computer-based training designed to build troubleshooting skills.
CENTERVILLE, Ohio - In order to get through to students, sometimes an instructor has to think just like them. When students range in age from 17 to 66, that can be a tough task, but it's essential, said Shawn Maynard of RETS Tech Center in Centerville, Ohio. His ability to reach students of all ages and prepare them for real-world career challenges earned him an honorable mention in the 2004 Instructor of the Year contest sponsored byThe Newsand ARI.

"The biggest challenge is communicating exactly what's in my head - to get students to understand it the way I understand it," he said. "The instructor has to take on the mind of a student and see things as a student would." Maynard strives to tailor his message to students from three different generations.

He finds that older students often grasp a concept by concentrating on theory, while younger students typically thrive on visual aids and computer demonstrations. Others might need a hands-on lab experience to comprehend a lesson. "I often find myself doing a demonstration three different ways to ensure that everyone gets it," Maynard said.

It wasn't that long ago that Maynard himself was a student at RETS Tech Center. He attended classes at night while working in the industry during the day. After he graduated from the program, he was hired as a lab instructor, a position he held for two years before moving into the classroom, where he has taught for the last four years.

During that time, he worked closely with Bob Feathers, the former HVACR department head and the winner of the 2003 Instructor of the Year award. He refers to Feathers, whom he replaced as the head of the department in June, as his mentor.

"Bob showed me the ropes. He showed me how to work with students and how to work for the students. That's why we're here. Bob was always a great help to me."

The Basics - And More

The RETS Tech HVACR program consists of three 12-week quarters, and it covers everything from basic safety to gas heat to commercial refrigeration, which is Maynard's specialty.

In the third quarter, Maynard prepares his students for the Industry Competency Exam (ICE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification test, which are requirements for graduation. The course moves at a fast pace, but Maynard and his staff see to it that students learn more than the basics. Along with theory and technical expertise, the students also learn how to interact with customers, find a job, and fill out invoices and other paperwork once they are hired.

Students learn soft skills through role-playing exercises in which Maynard poses as a homeowner with an equipment problem. Students are graded on their customer service skills, presentation, and paperwork, as well as their solution to the problem.

Students also participate in Habitat for Humanity projects. They typically supply the heating needs for two houses a year. Third-quarter students do the load calculations for the projects, while first- and second-quarter students install the equipment. Students also help maintain and repair equipment for the Life Enrichment Center, a mission that distributes food for the needy.

"They have a lot of refrigeration equipment that is donated, so we fix it and maintain it, and we also use it as training for our skills team, which is led by chapter advisor Greg Robinson," said Maynard. "Most of the repairs are done at the site, so students not only learn about equipment, they learn to give something back to the community."

Maynard also arranges field trips to various jobsites and invites guest speakers from supply houses, manufacturers, and local unions. Sometimes the guest speaker is a former student.

Nothing makes Maynard prouder as an educator than to share in the success of his students. "The moment that defined it for me was when a former student, Chris Marques, brought in pictures of the first furnace he installed," he said.

But Maynard is quick to point out that the success of the RETS Tech HVACR program is the result of a team effort. Maynard feels he shares this year's award with fellow teachers Mary Williams, Robinson, and Larry Britton.

"I owe a great deal of my success to my staff," he said. "I have the best staff in the nation. They are all top-notch."

Publication date: 11/08/2004