B'laster Instructor of the Year Finalists - Tomorrows Technician

B’laster Instructor of the Year Finalists

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 the 2021-2022 B’laster Instructor of the Year Finalists!


April Finalist Thomas Chandler

Thomas Chandler

Thomas Chandler was worried that his career in the automotive program might be over before it even got started. Thankfully for the students at Laurens 55 High School in Laurens, South Carolina, he was able to find a job after graduation. Read his full story!

March Finalist, Jerry Koenig

Jerry Koenig

For Jerry Koenig, Power Equipment and Diesel Technology instructor at Cuyahoga Valley Career Center in Brecksville, OH, being named the March 2022 candidate in the Instructor of the Year Program is more than simple recognition of a thirty-year career, it’s a full-circle return to where that career started. Read Jerry’s full story now.

February Finalist, John Stratton

John Stratton

John Stratton, automotive instructor at Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES IN New Hartford, NY, says he’s proud of his career, but is reluctant to bask in any self-promoting spotlight. His recognition as the February finalist is testament to his colleagues, his administration, his students and all of his past mentors, he says, because THEY’RE the reason he is where he is. Read John’s story now.

January Finalist, Charlie Rose, Waltham High School, Waltham, MA

Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose, Automotive Instructor at Waltham High School, Waltham, MA, says he’s been around the industry long enough that he has seen some significant changes – yet he’s still excited to share what’s next with his proteges. He works hard at reaching his students, no matter their circumstances. Read Charlie’s story by clicking the link below.


December Finalist, Austin Thorson

Austin Thorson

From the motivation of a technical education teacher who saw something special in a skilled, but not particularly motivated student, Austin Thorson, Technical Education instructor at Elkhorn Area High School in Elkhorn, WI, learned that applying real world skills to theoretical applications can help solve seemingly insurmountable problems. Read his motivational story.

November Finalist, Michael Broud

Michael Broud

Though he’s proud of what his program has accomplished so far, Michael Broud, automotive instructor with maintenance and light repair at Heritage High School in Palm Bay, FL, knows that the program’s – and his career – still has more good things in store. “Somebody told me long ago that teaching is nothing more than relentless preparation, and I’m constantly prepping for something,” says our November finalist. Read his story below.



April Finalist Jeff Wiseman

Jeff Wiseman

Since he was a boy, Jeff Wiseman, Automotive Technology instructor at Rockbridge County High School in Lexington, VA, knew he had a future in the automotive industry – he just didn’t know which direction his passion would take him. Luckily for family and his students, that path turned out to be circular. Read the full story, here.

March Finalist Pati Fairchild

Pati Fairchild

For someone who has always liked cars but wasn’t raised in a traditionally mechanically inclined family and is a self-professed “shy girl,” teaching automotive technology at a collegiate level may seem to be an odd career choice. Pati Fairchild, autobody instructor at El Camino College in Torrance, CA, would beg to differ. Read her full story, here.

February Finalist Mark Drelicharz

Mark Drelicharz

As the middle son of a midwestern street rodder, Mark Drelicharz sounds like the typical blue color hero in a rock and roll anthem. His love of all things automotive may sound genetic, but he’ll be the first to tell you, his journey has been a relentless pursuit of technical know-how. Read the full story, here.

January Finalist Tracey Hicks

Tracey Hicks

With an interest in and ability to work on a variety of different models of vehicles, Tracey Hicks found himself to be somewhat of an anomaly as technician at a BMW dealership. Yet his willingness to go beyond what was simply expected to what was actually needed set him up well as an automotive technology instructor. Read the full story, here.


December Finalist Bob Mauger

Bob Mauger

Mauger, the Automotive Technology instructor at Corona High School, Corona, CA, is the December finalist in B’laster’s Corporation’s “2021 Instructor of the Year” competition and says getting involved on a volunteer basis led to his dream opportunity. Read the full story, here.


Carl Smith

For many people, their genealogy can give an interesting snapshot of long-dead relatives who bear little resemblance to today’s circumstances. For Carl Smith, a look back through the pages of history tells him that he was destined to be a leader in the automotive industry – or at least in the classroom. Read the full story, here.


Ed Martin

Our August 2020 Finalist shares how a cancer diagnosis changed his perspective on teaching and inspired him to create a breakfast program for students in need. 

Ed Martin is the transportation chair and one of 6 automotive instructors at Pickens Technical College in Aurora, Colorado. Martin attended the automotive program at North Central Kansas Area Vocational Technical School in Beloit, Kansas, and started his career in Lincoln Nebraska working at a Ford dealership. He has 30 years of experience turning wrenches, primarily for Ford Motor Co. and as a former shop owner. Martin is an ASE Master Technician with additional certifications in Advanced Engine Performance, MLR, and Light Duty Diesel. Read the full story, here.


Our September 2020 Finalist shares how he integrates business practices, technology, and auto competitions to keep his students motivated and driven to succeed.

Adam Arndt has been the automotive instructor at Bonneville High School in Ogden, Utah, for the past eight years. He earned an associate degree in automotive at Modesto Junior College and a bachelor’s degree at Weber State University. Arndt is also the coordinator of the State Teachers Association for automotive teachers in Utah, and he co-produces an online monthly Professional Learning Community for all the automotive teachers in the region to help other teachers produce a guaranteed and viable curriculum for their programs. Read the full story, here.


Our October 2020 Finalist shares how he teaches his students respect and service through a special program that provides veterans car repair.

Derek Wray has been teaching Automotive Technology for 16 years. He has an associate degree in Automotive and Diesel Technology from Universal Technical Institute in Houston, Texas, and worked as a professional automotive technician for 10 years. Mr. Wray is an ASE Master certified in Automotive and is also ASE certified in Heavy Trucks and Collision Repair. In 2005, Wray won the Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence from Roanoke County Schools. In 2016, Wray was the Teacher of the Year for the entire Salem City School District. Wray is also a published author. In 2010, he wrote an ASE Test Prep Study Guide for Automotive Engine Performance and Driveability. Read the full story, here.


Our November 2020 Finalist shares how teaching should always be about the students, and how he helps develop his students into self-sufficient techs with a drift car project. 

Joel Dufkis is the automotive technology instructor at Rolling Meadows High School. He has been teaching automotive technology for 10 years and worked in the automotive industry for 7 years prior to teaching. Dufkis has a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University in Technology Education and a master’s degree from Loyola University in English Language Learning. He is an ASE Certified Master Technician who was worked in both the automotive repair and high-performance fields. In 2016-2017 he was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Education Award from District 214. Read the full story, here.


Our February 2020 finalist believes that custom projects help his students learn the collision and refinishing skills they need to succeed and display their talents.

Jeff Wilson is the Career and Technology Education Department Chair and Collision and Refinishing instructor at Kingwood Park High School. He has taught at the Humble ISD for more than 25 years. Wilson grew up in the industry, but started out as an iron worker. He earned his Industrial Technology and Engineering degree, with a minor in education, from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. His first education job was teaching welding at Humble High School in Humble, Texas. When the district built a new high school, Kingwood Park, Wilson started their then new Collision and Refinishing program. Read his story here. Read the full story, here.


Our March 2020 finalist in the annual “B’laster Instructor of the Year” program believes that pride in their abilities and in themselves will give his students the best chance for success. His passion for excellence – and fun – encourage his students to not only work hard but love their work.

Our March 2020 finalist in the annual “B’laster Instructor of the Year” program believes that pride in their abilities and in themselves will give his students the best chance for success. His passion for excellence – and fun – encourage his students to not only work hard but love their work. Nic Wages is a Master ASE certified technician, graduate from University of Southern Mississippi and lifelong resident of Vancleave, MS. Wages has taught at the Jackson County Technology Center for 15 years and has over 25 years of experience in the automotive industry. He believes in using an active-running automotive repair shop model to demonstrate and teach students diagnostic, effective repair techniques and provide a real-world example of success in the automotive industry. Read Nic’s story here. Read his story here. Read the full story, here.


Our April 2020 Finalist graduated from the same program he now leads. Our finalist says that his time as a student had a huge impact on his life and career. “Having this opportunity to come back and pass that knowledge along and inspire new students has just been phenomenal.”

Jeff Pishny, Automotive Technology Instructor at the Manhattan Area Technical College in Manhattan, Kansas is the Blaster instructor of the year finalist for April 2020. Pishny is an alumnus of the same program he now leads and says that even with the teaching and learning challenges he and his classes are facing right now, the opportunity to give back has been the best thing he’s ever done. “I think I’m in the best part of my career right now. Coming back here to the instructor side has been, definitely, the most fulfilling part of any aspect of the automotive industry I’ve been in.” Read his story here. Read the full story, here.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.