The Instructor of the Year program recognizes the automotive instructors at high schools, vo-tech programs and community colleges who think outside of the toolbox. Meet this year’s B’laster Instructor of the Year Finalists!

August

Our first finalist shares how his students practice real-world automotive careers with a functioning shop in the classroom. Jason Anderson is a lifelong auto technician who got his start at his great grandfathers used car dealership and building hunting buggies. Since then, Anderson has been every type of technician and even a service manager. He has spent 18 years professionally turning wrenches and is now in his seventh year teaching. Anderson is also an adjunct instructor for Indian River State College. In 2016, he was named Adjunct Instructor of the Year for the adult education department at the college. Read Jason’s story, here.

September

Our second finalist shares how with a “can-do” attitude, he’s created an unofficial engine and collision repair program at his school. Jonathan Couch has both AERA Certifications and is an ACA/ASE World Class technician, owner of Couch’s Automotive Racing Services (C.A.R.S) and has been an automotive instructor for the past 7 years. He has taught at Klein Forest High School since fall 2016. Couch got his start working at a Toyota dealership right out of high school and later attended San Jacinto College while working at O’Reilly Auto Parts. He spent 3 years working at San Jacinto College, where he earned an associate’s degree, and later earned his bachelor’s degree in Automotive Technology at Sam Houston State University in December 2013. In 2013 he worked for Lone Star College. Couch is only four ASE Certifications away from being one of six people to have all of the available ASE Certifications. Read Jonathan’s story, here.

October

Our third finalist shares how project builds make a difference in the classroom. Jay Abitz has been the Automotive and Collision Repair Instructor at Freedom High School since 2007, taking over for his father Bob Abitz who built the successful program over 35 years. In 2008, he founded the Freedom High School Auto Club, which serves the students as a positive after school activity. Abitz is involved in the SkillsUSA (VICA) Collision Repair program, and is a 2-time state champion. Additionally, he has been a member of the National Education Team for Collision Repair since 2007 and serves on the Collision Repair Advisory Committee for the Fox Valley Technical College. Abitz is a former Freedom High School graduate (2002) and furthered his education in collision repair at Fox Valley Technical College. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in technology education from the University of Wisconsin Stout and a master in education in instructional technology from Cardinal Stritch University. Read Jay’s story, here.

November

Our fourth finalist shares how customized education helps students from all walks of life. Greg Baird is celebrating his 11th year as the high school automotive service instructor for the Career Center of Southern Illinois. Baird took automotive classes in high and worked on various equipment and vehicles around his family’s farm while growing up, sparking his interest in automotive. After high school, he attended junior college where he received an associate’s degree in automotive service technology and later earned a bachelor’s degree in education. His first job in the automotive industry was washing cars at a Ford dealership. He later moved on to working as a tech at an independent shop, where he currently spends his summer breaks working while also tending to the family farm. Read Greg’s story, here.

February

Our fifth finalist shares why he returned to the schools to teach the next generation of techs. And, how working on hot rods brings a sense of pride, and career readiness, to his students. Pat Mckibbin has been the Auto Collision Instructor at Metropolitan Community College for the last 13 Years. He teaches all aspects of collision repair, refinish, automotive welding, estimating and the I-Car Pro level student series. Mckibbin grew up in the car business, hanging out at his father’s auto repair shop. He started his career at a car dealership as a car porter and worked his way into the body shop. He spent the next 15 years working in several shops as a collision repair technician, painter, frame repair, estimator and shop manager. Mckibbin decided to go into education noticing there was a growing need for qualified technicians in the field. He is passionate about street rods, motorcycles and restoration projects. He is I-Car Platinum Certified and an ASE Master Collision technician. Read Pat’s story, here.

March

Our sixth finalist shares how restoring vehicles for drag racing helps his students learn every aspect of the vehicle, while learning the satisfaction of hard work. Joe Mendola has been teaching automotive technology for 18 years. He has been in many businesses including junk yard work, towing and automotive repair, and has been drag racing for more than 35 years. He spent 20 of those years working and winning championships with his sons and many students. Mendola has been an ASE Master Certified technician for more than 30 years. Read Joe’s story, here.

April

Our seventh and final finalist shares how being an automotive instructor allows him to support his students to accomplish huge goals, be it hot rod makeovers or automotive competitions. Anthony Migliorini grew up near Lake Michigan and started his career in at a marina working as a boat technician, a job he acquired through the reference of his high school auto shop teacher.  Moving to southern Indiana to attend college he worked in the auto-motive industry while attending school.  He has been teaching at Clay Community Schools for 22 years and is the Automotive Services Technology Teacher at Northview High School. He is also the department head of the Vocational Education Department. Migliorini is ASE Master Certified and holds a Bachelor’s in Technology Education/Vocational T I Teaching and a Master’s degree in Human Resource Development from Indiana State University. Read Anthony’s story, here.