Every year afterThe Newsand the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) choose the Instructor of the Year, I pay a visit to the winner. This year I drove down to RETS Tech Center in Centerville, Ohio, to personally congratulate Bob Feathers.

Feathers is our winner for 2003, and he is honored in this issue along with five other exceptional instructors from across the country. You can read all about the winners in this issue.

What I notice every year is the enthusiasm that welcomes me when I get to the school of the winner. I think that in most cases, the instructor is very humbled by the award, while the rest of the school is very excited and energetic about the honor their instructor is receiving.

This was definitely the case when I got to RETS Tech. One of the first people I met when I arrived at the school was Mary Williams, a lab assistant for the HVACR program. Williams' enthusiasm was infectious. She had played a part in nominating Feathers for the award, and she was obviously thrilled that her supervisor (and former instructor) was going to be recognized by a magazine that reaches the industry on a national level.

Providing An Opportunity

Williams explained to me that she graduated from the RETS Tech HVACR program and was eventually offered a job with the department. She has seen Feathers as both an instructor and a co-worker. And she definitely felt that her boss deserved to be the instructor of the year, if not the instructor of the century.

Williams talked a lot about what Feathers has done. He has been an education advocate by getting other instructors on board with certification and accreditation, he volunteers his time with Habitat for Humanity, and he offers his students the opportunity to get out in the field and try out their new skills.

But Williams really emphasized what kind of person Feathers is.

Williams was a nontraditional student, like many of the individuals enrolled in the program today. And, like many individuals who have not been in a school setting for a while, she found the thought of starting all over again and having to take tests to be overwhelming.

Williams said that Feathers put her at ease, and she has seen him do the same for many other students. "There are students here with a wide range of experience," said Williams. "And Bob is always able to keep them together and working together."

Feathers also helps these students form a goal. Once they have a goal, Feathers promises that he and the rest of the RETS Tech staff will help them attain that goal.

I believe that Williams sees Feathers as more than an instructor. He is someone who provided her with the tools she would need to succeed. Nominating Feathers for this distinction was just one way Williams and the rest of the RETS Tech students could return the favor.

Get Excited

I wish we could all feel the way Williams and many other students feel about their instructors. When I have the opportunity to share my feelings on training and education, I try to stress how important our educators are to this industry. And it would be nice to see not only the students get excited about their instructors, but the contractors as well. We need the guys who hire the students to get pumped up and excited about the people who are educating those students.

We tend to forget that these students don't teach themselves. We forget that there are some extraordinary teachers out there who see their job as more than a job. They see it as a mission to give something back to the industry. So if you're a contractor who has a great technician, thank an instructor and find out from him or her what you can do in return.

James J. Siegel is training & education editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1731, 248-362-0317 (fax), or jamessiegel@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 10/27/2003