Career Center of Southern Illinois Instructor Named Fourth Finalist For 'B'laster Instructor Of The Year' -

Career Center of Southern Illinois Instructor Named Fourth Finalist For ‘B’laster Instructor Of The Year’

Greg Baird shares how a customized education helps students from all walks of life. 

Tomorrow’s Technician and B’laster are searching for automotive technology instructors who think outside of the toolbox with the first-ever “B’laster Instructor of the Year” program. Each month, we will share an automotive instructor’s story who is in the running to be named the B’laster Instructor of the Year winner in May 2019. Instructors can enter the B’laster Instructor of the Year program at

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.

Words by Greg Baird

The Career Center of Southern Illinois (CCSI) is both a career center for our local school districts to send students for vocational classes and an alternative school for at-risk students to earn the credits necessary to graduate. Needless to say, I see a wide variety of skill levels in my program, but I make sure every student leaves my class understanding what they learned.

During the engine portion of my program, students start off in the shop disassembling and reassembling a wide variety of engines (everything from a FE390 big-block Ford, DOHC Northstar Cadillac, and all the way up to Toyota 4 cylinder). That part of the class is very common for a high school engine class, but I take it so much farther. After the students have successfully completed their first shop engine, I assign groups (with two or three students) to a small-block Chevy engine. The students use a workbook that I have created to rebuild their engine. They start with disassembly, cleaning, inspection (measuring every bearing clearance, ring gap, bore, etc.), preassembly and final assembly.

The students can also choose to paint their engine. Then comes the best part; the final and most exciting part of the project is when the students install their engines onto one of the run stands, which were all designed by auto students and welded by our welding program. We love cross-curricular projects. The auto students prepare the engine to run, from priming the lubrication system, setting valve lash, installing the ignition system, timing their engine and, finally, running their engines. It is so exciting to get to see students work for weeks to build their engine, and then get to see the payoff at the end (hearing their engine roar to life). I take a picture of the groups after they have completed their project and display them on the wall in my room.

I have also developed a special electrical project for my students. Many students have trouble understanding automotive electrical in general, let alone the “Where’s Waldo” looking wiring diagrams that we have on some vehicles. So, I use two approaches to teach the students electrical, as well as how to use and follow a wiring diagram.

First, I created an 11-tier electrical project book. The students start with diagram No. 1 and work at their own pace. Every diagram gets more difficult to build with more electrical tests to perform (voltage drop, resistance, etc). The diagrams start out very simple with a series circuit and move up to circuits that have a throttle body controlled by a switch, and the hardest diagrams using two relays and a two-way switch — one that is operating a door lock actuator.

The second project that I use in my program to get students to learn and enjoy wiring and electrical is, wait for it, car audio. I bring in a Jeep frame to the shop. I have a wooden floor and fake dash on it and students have to wire a complete audio system, head unit, four 6x9s, amp and subwoofers. I also threw in some LEDs that blink to the music for some added flare. I created a complete wiring diagram that they have to use to completely wire the audio system, starting with identifying the power and ground of each speaker using an AA battery. The students love this project. This year, my students are extra excited to do this project. In the past, I have had to use audio equipment from my personal vehicle. But, this year, JL Audio very generously donated the audio components for the project and the students can’t wait to get to use their products, and learn the right way to wire up a sound system.

As an instructor and a Skills USA advisor, which I absolutely love, I get to see students who knew very little coming into my class, or have been told they  “can’t” during their lives, succeed in state competitions and at life.

Enter for the B’laster Instructor of the Year program at

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