Summer is almost here and several vocational programs will be wrapping up the year and preparing for the fall semester. Things atThe Newswill wind down a little also, but this is the time of year when we begin to accept nominations for our Instructor of the Year contest. We also spend the spring and summer months notifying instructors that they have been nominated for the award. Then, in the fall, we choose our winners.

Hard to believe, but this will be the fourth year for the contest.

This is one of the events that I look forward to each year. The reason is because I know that we are going to find not only good instructors, but instructors who are inspiring in the classroom and in everyday life.

Ben Engelking, 2000 HVACR Instructor of the Year.

Past Winners

The News’first Instructor of the Year was Ben Engelking, owner of B.R. Engelking Co. Inc. HVACR Training School in Brier, Wash. Since establishing the program in 1989, Engelking has turned out more than 3,500 students. But these aren’t just any students. Engelking uses the Industry Competency Exam (ICE) to test his students on refrigeration. The average test score of his students is 93.75 percent. The national average for the refrigeration portion of ICE is 59.56 percent.

Engelking’s philosophy emphasizes hands-on learning and what he calls the “Discovery Approach to Education.” This approach involves very little lecture and a whole lot of equipment training, which he believes helps students absorb the knowledge faster and retain it longer.

Engelking would like other instructors to adopt his philosophy and said his goal “is to become the hub of HVACR education in the Northwest.”

Mark Wright, 2001 HVACR Instructor of the Year.
Our 2001 instructor of the year was Mark Wright, a secondary educator at the Green Mountain Technology and Career Center in Hyde Park, Vt.

Wright took his teaching job specifically to help tackle the technician shortage. He started the HVACR program at Green Mountain from scratch. He found the donations for his lab, recruited his students, and gained the support of local contractors and industry in order to make his new program a success.

But Wright is more proud of the impact he has been able to have on his students from a personal perspective. He shares with his students that the industry is a way of life that requires pride, devotion, and selflessness. Wright not only teaches his student the technical aspects of the trade, but what they need as an individual to succeed.

Jerry Parker, 2002 HVACR Instructor of the Year.
Our Instructor of the Year last year was Jerry Parker from John A. Logan College in Carterville, Ill. Like Wright, Parker felt that there was a calling for him in education. The instructor had several years of experience as an installer and service technician before he took the teaching job.

“I would teach customers how their systems work,” said Parker. “And they said I should be an instructor.”

When the previous instructor at John A. Logan left the program, Parker decided to take that advice. But Parker faced an uphill battle. John A. Logan had obtained a less than favorable reputation in the Carterville area. Many contractors would not take students from the program because they felt the education they received was less than adequate.

Within a year, Parker took the college HVACR program and turned it around. He completely rebuilt the equipment lab and approached local industry for support. He promised local contractors that big changes were on the way. Parker made good on his promise, and now local industry is back on board, hiring students from John A. Logan College.

Just The Beginning

This is just a quick recap of the previous winners. There is no possible way to list all of their qualifications and accomplishments and the reasons why they were chosen for the award. But if I had to pick one thing they all had in common, I would say that Engelking, Wright, and Parker have all demonstrated commitment. Not only commitment to the HVACR industry, but commitment to those who want to learn. These instructors care about people. They care about their students, the contractors who will hire these students, and the customers who will welcome them into their homes and businesses as service technicians.

And The News has proof that these instructors are on the right track.

Duke Giraud, a former student of Engelking’s, said, “Ben teaches you the fundamentals and does a very good job at that, but what a person gets most is encouragement. Taking Ben’s courses has changed my life and my family’s for the better. I no longer work dead-end jobs and have tripled my income.”

Each year when The News starts its Instructor of the Year contest, we receive comments like these from many former and current students who want to nominate an educator for the award. Comments like Giraud’s are the reason behind The News’ desire to honor the industry’s best teachers every year. Not only does this give much-deserved recognition to the instructor, it gives our contractor readers an opportunity to see an essential piece of the HVACR industry in action.

If there were no HVACR instructors, you could probably still find someone and train them to install or service a system. But when you find a qualified technician who knows a system forwards and backwards, you need to thank an HVACR instructor.

If there is an instructor you would like to thank, The News is now accepting nominations for the fourth annual Instructor of the Year contest. A nomination form can be found on page 22 of this issue of The News or online at The News home page.

The deadline for nominations is June 20, 2003. The winning instructors will be recognized in an October issue.

James J. Siegel is training & education editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1731; 248-362-0317 (fax);

Publication date: 04/21/2003