My grandma, Betty, was a heck of a woman. Born in 1916, she was her high school’s valedictorian before earning her degree in social work from Michigan State University in 1938. She joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps or WAC) and was commissioned in 1942. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt sought her counsel, and, after the war, grandma served for several decades as a librarian, historian, author, activist, and volunteer in her hometown of Portland, Michigan.

In 2002, my grandma died in the same room in which she was born. But, up until she passed away, she had never stopped reading, learning, researching, and bettering herself and those around her. My grandma’s quest for acquiring and sharing her knowledge was, and still is, inspirational to everyone who knew her, and she’s a big part of my recent decision to go back to school to obtain my MA in English.


Many of us have a Betty Anesi in our lives — a person, often a teacher, who has inspired us through their passion for cultivating and sharing their own knowledge and skills. In the HVAC industry, these are often the instructors who are educating the next generation of HVACR technicians or the trainers who are improving the knowledge and skill sets of existing techs.

To help honor those who inspire our industry, The NEWS is now accepting nominations for its 17th annual Best Instructor Award and fourth annual Best Trainer Award. The goal of these contests is to recognize and reward HVACR instructors and trainers who have dedicated their careers to inspiring and enriching the lives of their students. The nomination process is open to anyone who has seen firsthand the work an instructor or trainer has done to better the industry.

Last year, The NEWS and Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) Educational Foundation recognized Phil Wilbur, a chiller team technical leader for Johnson Controls Inc. and apprenticeship instructor at UA Local 447’s Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Training Center, as the 2015 Best Instructor winner; John Barba, director of training for Taco Comfort Solutions, was named 2015 Best Trainer.

Wilbur has not only built a career in HVACR — he’s helped many others build theirs, too.

“It’s rewarding when I step back and look at the program,” he said. “I started it, but a lot of other people have made it really good. It’s a nice thing to see it done well, and I’m lucky to work with some awesome instructors.”


If you know an instructor or trainer who deserves to be recognized for his or her contributions to the industry through teaching, we encourage you to nominate him or her. Best Instructor nominees should be teaching at a career or technical school, community college, apprenticeship, or adult education program. Best Trainer nominees should be employed by manufacturers or distributors. Seminar speakers are not eligible.

The nomination deadline is July 1, and winners will be announced in September. For more information, or to make a nomination, visit

Publication date: 4/18/2016