Guy Letrick (right) gives classroom instruction to students (from left) Ylber Klobucista, Joe Trevino, Nick Craig, and Dennis Scalzo.
FREEHOLD, N.J. - Guy Letrick, the runner-up in the Best Instructor contest sponsored byThe NEWSand ARI, is no stranger to winning awards. The HVACR instructor at Monmouth County Vocational School won the same award in 2004 and was Honorable Mention in 2003. His other numerous achievements include 2005 Teacher of the Year for his building at Monmouth.

There is a reason he has won so many honors - actually several. One of his students, Matt Kinneman, said, "He instills in his students professionalism and good work ethics." Edvin Mendez, another of Letrick's students, added, "He is the kind of instructor that you will remember for life because of the connection he made with you and the knowledge he has passed on to you."

With accolades like that, it is no wonder that Letrick is an award winner and better yet, that he epitomizes what the HVACR trade is looking for: people who motivate young students to follow a career path in HVACR.

Spicing It Up

No one can tell Letrick that the HVACR trade is boring. He knows better. He believes there are things about the trade that can be good selling points, if not talking points, to young people when they need to make career choices.

"When one thinks about HVACR, he or she might not get too excited," said Letrick. "However, I believe that HVACR can be an exciting, fascinating, and extremely interesting field. But, how does one glamorize HVACR? What can be done to spice up a walk-in box, or a split system?

"The best way is to educate people about the possibilities in HVACR, and the potential one has to gain financial security within this industry."

The key to getting students to listen to the educational and financial rewards available in the trade is to introduce them to HVACR through a number of different routes.

For example, Monmouth is hosting an open house for the Construction Trade Clusters, emphasizing HVACR. Letrick is sending every guidance counselor in Monmouth County a copy of a PowerPoint presentation that he made about the opportunities that the students have, whether they go right into the field or to college to obtain a degree. The program has articulation agreements with three colleges, and at present, Letrick is working on two more.

"We have ties with the Refrigeration Union who come into the class to tell the students about the opportunities available to them by joining the union," he said. "Also, because no one else can describe my program like I can, I will be visiting different schools in Monmouth County promoting my program."

Letrick's program at Monmouth is a two-year secondary course culminating in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and 401A certification, the Industry Competency Exam (ICE), and certificate of completion for his students. His average class size is 12 students, and his classes are comprised of 60 percent theory and 40 percent hands-on work.

Letrick, who has been an HVACR instructor for 16 years, continues to educate himself on the many changes in the HVACR trade. He is a member of the Council of Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Educators Inc. (CARE), part of the education and training branch of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI). He also attends yearly ARI Instructor Workshops.

Yet all of this training would be for naught if he couldn't get students interested and excited about the trade. One motivation is by giving students a homework pass if he or she scores an 85 or higher on the weekly quiz. He also has an "A" jar for anyone scoring over 90 on a quiz. At the end of the marking period, a name is drawn out of the jar and the winner gets a tool.

But it isn't all fun and games in the class. Letrick encourages his students to maintain a troubleshooting journal.

He said, "I try to show the students the proper way [to troubleshoot] and what the equipment manufacturers require when installing a piece of equipment.

"I try to show them how things properly work so when these things do go bad they know what to look for. They need to take their time and think. We have enough parts changers in the field - I want them to become technicians."

Guy Letrick has a laugh with students (from left) Dennis Scalzo, Nick Craig, Ylber Klobucista, and Joe Trevino.

Keep Dangling The Carrot

Letrick continues to make the Monmouth program attractive to his students, especially when it comes to winning. He encourages his students to take part in the statewide SkillsUSA Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) competitions, where student members show their HVACR skills in various events. The overall winner of the competition goes on to the national competition to compete against the best students in the field.

Letrick tells his students who are certified to work in HVACR that they are employable anywhere in the country or anywhere in the world, for that matter. "HVACR is so diverse, that qualified workers can work on small domestic refrigerators or a 200-ton chiller," he said.

"Another important piece of information about HVACR is that of all the trades, it is the most technical. There will always be a need for an HVACR workforce."

So if there will always be a need for HVACR technicians and the trade is not as glamorous as many other professions, can people like Letrick make a difference? If you listen to him, the answer is yes.

"Although it is very difficult to glamorize a field that requires extremely hard work and a tough schedule, if given the chance, I can make that happen," he said.

"Along with my passion for HVACR, my past and present students are the best recruiters due to their testimonies of what they actually learn and the experience they do receive within the program. With these tactics, I hope to entice and inspire students to explore a career in the field of HVACR."

Quick Stats

Contest Placement:Runner-Up

Instructor: Guy Letrick

College Or School: Monmouth County Vocational School

Location: Freehold, N.J.

Years Teaching: 16

Publication date: 11/14/2005