Jeremy Davis says he grew up immersed in an enthusiasm for automotive technology.
“My siblings and my dad loved drag racing. I grew up watching racing on TV and going to events, going to a lot of car shows. I’ve always loved cars, and had a passion for cars, so when I got to high school, I knew I wanted to do something in the industry. I just didn’t know enough about the options to nail down exactly what I wanted to do,” Davis says.
“Luckily, when I was in 12th grade, a guy from our local tech school came for a visit. They were recruiting students to go into the GM ASEP program at our local GM dealership. Me being a GM guy my whole life, I approached him and said I was interested in the opportunity. I immediately started a co-op with a local GM dealership and then after graduation in 1997, I went to Greenville Tech for the automotive program,” Davis says. “I did that, finished that program in spring of ‘99, and had an opportunity to get involved in racing and travel and work on a professional drag racing team. It was an awesome experience.
Davis, automotive instructor at the Hamilton Career and Technology Center in Westminster, SC, is the April Finalist in Tomorrow’s Technician’s 2022-2023 Instructor of the Year Program, presented by B’laster Industries, and says he eventually found his way back home, a quarter mile at a time.
“My oldest daughter was born somewhere in all that process, and I was torn between living out this dream that I had and getting back home. Traveling 10 months out of the year, I had to make a decision. I was raised with very supportive parents, and I knew that my daughter would need me to be there. So I decided that family would have to be first, and I came back and went back to work in a different GM dealership.”
Davis became a team leader at the dealership and earned his GM Master certification – and knew that he could do even more.
“I’ve always been very goal oriented. In my twenties, I was extremely self-motivated to climb as high as I could go,” he says. “I wanted to get as many certifications as I could get – became master certified, got L1 certification, all the GM certifications I could get – so I was faced with the chance to go in two different directions. After about seven years, the only way up from there was to go into the service management side of the business, but I knew that as a team leader I had an opportunity to train the new students coming through who were in the tech program.”
The right choice for Davis, he says was to focus on someone else’s success.
“I guess something in me at that point kind of switched where all my satisfaction and motivation and goals came from seeing and helping others become successful, rather than chasing success for myself,” he says.
Davis says during high school he never dreamed he would one day be back on the other side of the desk but he recognized that it was a great opportunity.
“It was a perfect segue into a new career. I saw the opportunity to be able to help a lot of students and also to help the automotive industry because, at that point, you could already see the writing on the wall with the shortage of technicians.”
He says he also believes it was more than mere coincidence that put him where he is.
“I was at a point in my dealership career where something didn’t feel right. I didn’t like going to work anymore, so one night I just prayed that if there was an opportunity out there for me, if God opened a door, I would go through it. Or, if I was supposed to stay where I was, I would. I would put on a smile and joyfully go there every day and do what I could do.”
Out of the blue, Davis says, his old school called the next morning. “I didn’t even know there was an opening at Hamilton Career Center, to be honest with you. The director just called me and asked me if I’d be interested. It was wild, but I couldn’t say no,” Davis says. “That was 17 years ago, and it’s been awesome ever since, just to see the success with the students in the classroom and in the community.”
Davis credits his faith for guiding him along his journey. “Every day, I come into work, with a couple of things on my mind: who can I help today and how? I also love finding and helping students realize what their talents are. When I first started teaching someone gave me a big diamond in a box with a clear top on it. It’s obviously not real, but I keep that in my office just as a reminder of all those diamonds that I find every year in the classroom. Many times, the students don’t even know that they have the talent, but I can pretty quickly identify them. They get this surprised look on their face, and you can kind of see the light go on. Once THEY realize they have the talent, it’s just awesome to watch them shine.”
Davis has earned Teacher of the Year at HCTC and has been a finalist for several years. He is a leader at the state level, often sought out by CATE officials from the SCDE. What Davis takes most pride in, however, are the accomplishments of his students.
Davis says that 17 years in the classroom has taught him many things, not the least of which is that there is no one educational method that works best.
“We think that the way that we learn things is kind of how everybody does, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that wasn’t necessarily the case. Every student doesn’t learn the same way and every student doesn’t learn like I learn. I’ve worked hard to find ways to adapt, to find different methods and means to be able to teach things to students and to recognize when they just don’t understand.”
Yes, Davis says, there is a basic level that everyone needs to learn – but many students want to go far beyond the minimum.
“I want to take those students as far as they can go, not as far as my state curriculum or state standards say they go.”
Davis says he teaches 10th grade through 12th grade students from three different area high schools. at four separate levels. He says he typically has about 55 students per year.
“We have been very fortunate to be successful in a lot of competitions so that certainly helps recruiting students, because they see that they can be successful. I keep all of our trophies and banners and things in the classroom that we’ve won at different competitions. I would say, for the last six or seven years in our state competitions, in at least one, if not both, we’ve been at least top three every single year for almost a decade.”
During his tenure, the AST Program at HCTC has consistently won, or placed each year in the South Carolina State and National Levels of Skills USA, NASCAR Institute Top Tech Challenge, The South Carolina Transportation and Business Alliance All Star Challenge and the former Ford AAA Student Auto Skills Competition. His students have earned awards, tools, and scholarships time and again.
“This year, one of my students was third in the State All-Star competition,” he says. “There’s an organization in South Carolina, we have tons of support, and I’m not sure by other states, from the industry, so there’s a coalition, it’s called South Carolina Transportation Education and Business Alliance. It’s a coalition between the South Carolina Auto Dealers Association and the State Department of Education. They put on a special contest where the top 12 students that go, all of them get toolboxes and tools, and then the top three get larger toolboxes, larger tool sets and a scanner.”
Davis is proud of his students’ abilities. “Every year that I’ve done it, I’ve had a student who was top three and gets all kind of good stuff. We won Skills USA in ’21 and ’22, as well as in 2015 and 2011.We were second this year at the regional competition at NASCAR Technical Institute. Schools from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, basically the Southeast United States, compete.
With program funds won by Davis’s student competitions, his classes reconditioned a Chevrolet Silverado into their class shop truck, but it is no ordinary build. This truck is a true old school hot rod in every form. “We actually built the LS engine for it and everything. We wrapped it ourself here at the school, and most of the money that went into the build was money that we won at competitions. I put those students’ names on the back of the truck just to recognize them for what they did and their contribution to be able to build the truck. We drive it in parades and we take it now to the competitions, and it’s cool when other students see us pull up in it.”
Davis actively works to find scholarship opportunities as well as employment for his students with great results.
“I have numerous independent shops and dealerships in the area that I place students in. I have several students who are out in co-ops this semester working right now. I have students who go to the Ford Asset Program and Honda PACT,“ he says.
“One night I sat down with a Sharpie and a huge piece of poster board and wrote the name of every independent shop or dealership that I could think of where I had a student who was currently working or had worked in the automotive industry. I hung it on the classroom wall, and now students can see that and realize it’s real. They can say, ‘Okay, I see. It’s tangible. – there really are jobs out there. This is a place that’s going to help me actually put my feet on the ground inside of one of these dealerships or independent shops.’ That’s powerful motivation,” he says.
Davis says being named an Instructor of the Year Finalist is an honor, but not for himself alone.
“Thanks to B’laster who provides us with great supplies, and to Tomorrow’s Technician for providing things that I can bring into the classroom to help take our programs to the next level. It makes things interesting for them. Do you know they’re not always just listening to me?” he laughs.
“I am beyond honored to even be mentioned,” he says, “but it’s all about the team. I’m also a football coach at one of our local high schools and there are a lot of parallels between the two. You can’t have a successful automotive program or a successful sports program by yourself. It takes so many people, which I am very thankful for, and it takes great students, a great administration, and it takes great industry support.
“We definitely feel the support. It’s amazing to be a part of this industry and see the things that help you really build a program,” Davis says.
For more information on the 2022–2023 B’laster Instructor of the Year program or to nominate a worthy instructor, visit Tomorrow’s Technician today.