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Rolling Meadows High School Instructor Named November Finalist For 2020 ‘B’laster Instructor Of The Year’

Tomorrow’s Technician and B’laster are once again looking for instructors who “think outside of the toolbox” with the second-annual “B’laster Instructor of the Year” program. Our November 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. 

Words by Joel Dufkis

I’ve been working on cars for as long as I can remember. My grandfather owned a service station in Chicago and it almost feels like it’s in my blood. My father taught me a lot about working on cars along with a host of other skills that really helped me to become confident in my skill set. In high school, my auto shop teacher Roger Basrak helped me hone my skills and was a huge influence on me. Little did I know that the lessons he taught me then would lead me to where I am now. 

After high school, I worked for the independent repair shop Stephens Automotive, where I worked as a technician under some of the best in the business. In 2007 I decided to change my career path and went into education. I’ve always enjoyed teaching people new things and when I really thought about it, I’d have the greatest impact helping students find their passion and hopefully setting them up for success later in life as an instructor. Fast forward to today and I’m in my 10th year of teaching and 8th year at Rolling Meadows High School.

My teaching philosophy is to create an atmosphere where the students know you’re there for them, that any issue from an automotive one to a personal one, that I’m there. I got into teaching for the students – it’s all about them and helping them further themselves in life. The day it stops being about the students is the day I’ll return back to the industry because it’s not fair to the students if you’re not 100% in it for them. 

I run my classes in some unique ways. In my advanced classes we do a lot of live work on staff vehicles. It’s a great opportunity for students to simulate a shop environment and really learn how to function as a team, and it allows them to work on a variety of vehicles with a variety of issues. 

In addition to live work on staff vehicles, for the last three years the student have been building a 1999 Mazda Miata AKA Mazdarati into a full blown pro-am drift car. This project started when the Miata was given to me by my brother-in-law. I saw it as an opportunity to build a drift car with my students and to teach them how to get into racing in a legal way and to show them how to build a car on a budget. This build started out very basic with them doing a bunch of safety items on the car and in the first event out I ended up hitting a wall and smashing up the front end. This was honestly one of the best things to happen as it allowed the student to learn how to do a lot of custom fabrication and welding. Last year we worked on improving the power of the vehicle by adding a custom-built turbo kit for the car along with upgrading the fuel system and installing a fully programmable ECU. Students designed and built the piping, and installed the whole kit and got the car running. 

Some of them would come to the track where they’d help read the data logs and fine-tune the tune on the car. Then this year was the big one where the students tore the whole car apart, removing everything from the chassis. They prepped the car for the full roll cage, separated the engine harness from the chassis harness and then built a whole new chassis harness from scratch. They repainted the engine bay and learned how to do bodywork on the car in preparation for a new coat of paint. There was literally no nut or bolt that was untouched on the car and it turned out amazing. The students did a fantastic job. It was so good that at the Tuner Galleria of the Chicago World of Wheels it won best Mazda. It has proven itself on the track by being a rock-solid car that has never had a major issue, that’s a testament to the build quality the students put into it. This project has benefited the students in multiple ways. They are able to build a project car without having to spend their own money, learn how to correctly build a car for use on the track by following rule books to ensure the car fits into the class, and most of all, it gave them confidence and pride. The students were a bit scared to start this project for fear of failure or screwing up but as they put in more time and work they were able to overcome these fears and really progress their skills. They also take tremendous pride in the work they have done and it’s given them a new sense of confidence that will allow them to become better technicians in the end. 

I’ve also in the last year founded the Automotive Technology Instructor Network (ATIN) as a way to connect automotive instructors from around the nation. As automotive instructors especially in the high school setting we are typically the only teacher in our school or sometimes even district, so this group allows connections to be made so we can share ideas, labs or just ask questions to our peers that we typically wouldn’t have known. With the help of Texas shop owner Jeff Buckley, we have also gotten shops involved so they can connect with schools in their area to hopefully facilitate internships and to join the advisory boards of the local schools. You can find us on our Facebook group by searching for Automotive Technology Instructor Network.

Being named a B’laster Instructor of the Year finalist means a lot to me and my program. I’ve worked hard to create a great program that will set students up for success in the future and this helps prove that I’m on the right track. I’m incredibly grateful to the people who have nominated me, who see the hard work I’ve put into my program day in and day out.

You can follow along with Rolling Meadows High School’s drift car project on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @RMHSauto.

Bio: 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.

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Salem High School Instructor Named October Finalist For 2020 ‘B’laster Instructor Of The Year’

Tomorrow’s Technician and B’laster are once again looking for instructors who “think outside of the toolbox” with the second-annual “B’laster Instructor of the Year” program. Our October Finalist shares how he teaches his students respect and service through a special program that provides veterans car repair.

Words by Derek Wray

I worked at my first automotive job in Oakland, California, when I was a sophomore in high school. I cleaned cars and moved cars in and out of the shop. This inspired me to take auto mechanics in high school. When I moved to Northern Virginia as a junior in high school, I worked at a Goodyear tire store. After high school, I moved to Houston, Texas, to attend Universal Technical Institute where I earned my associate degree in Automotive and Diesel Technology. After graduation, I began working at a dealership until I worked my way up to a shop foreman position at an independent repair shop after 10 years in the industry. 

I received a phone call at work one day from a local high school technical center. The principal told me that they hired a new automotive teacher that was called to active duty on the first day of his first year of teaching. He explained that the school had been calling dealerships, shops, tool reps, and everyone they could think of asking them who they would recommend to fill this job for two years until he returned from overseas. The principal told me that over and over again my name kept being mentioned as someone who would make a good automotive teacher. I immediately wanted to do it. I love a challenge and I had always wanted to give back in this way to help young people succeed. After that teacher came back from deployment, I luckily found another position at a neighboring school division (Salem High School) and have been there ever since.

My teaching philosophies begin with respect and service to others. I treat all of my students with respect. I have found that works so much better than being the dictator in the classroom. When they feel respected, they always return that same respect. I also teach my students to always help their community and all the people around them, and that we are dependent upon each other in this world. None of us can be so selfish that we can just do everything by ourselves and for ourselves. I want them to be productive members of society, not just superstars at their careers. So, with that in mind we work as a team, and we always look out for each other, and help each other in the classroom and in the shop.

Real world experience is a priority for my students. We use a “simulated workplace” model of instruction in my automotive classes. The students actually run a real repair shop in our high school. Each student is a technician and works on cars, but they also have another specific job titles with the company, like service manager, service writer, parts manager, etc. They talk to the customers, perform the repairs, and even collect the money and turn it in to the bookkeeper. This experience has been so incredibly valuable for the students. It has helped prepare these students with technical skills, and workplace readiness “soft” skills as well. 

We teamed up with the local Veterans Administration and did a project for elderly veterans who needed car repair assistance. We won a grant to cover the price of parts and materials and students performed maintenance and repair work on the veterans’ vehicles for free (We also used B’laster on some of these vehicles).

I started this project 15 years ago at a different school district and I brought the idea here to Salem to help build my students character and their community service hours. I just think it’s so important for them to know what it feels like to give back and to help others in need. It turns these boys into young men, and these girls into young women. It prepares them for the world by changing them for the better. They become a little less self-centered, and little more appreciative of things that they have when they help others in need, especially those people who have given so much themselves, like the veterans.

The project just got revamped last year because of our workplace simulation shop environment. So, initially we have helped a handful of veterans by repairing and servicing their cars, but we have also serviced the Veterans Administration buses that are used to transport the veterans who don’t drive anymore. This year specifically, we have arranged to expand the program, and use the social workers for the Veterans Administration to spread the word about what we offer to those who financially need it the most.

I just hope that this recognition helps shine some light on these amazing students for all of their hard work. They are the reason for all of this, and I hope that whatever the outcome is from these recognitions, that the students will be proud of what they have accomplished. 

Bio: 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. 

For more information or to nominate an instructor for the B’laster Instructor of the Year program, visit TomorrowsTechnician.com/instructor-of-the-year.

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B’laster, Tomorrow’s Tech Searching For The Next ‘Instructor of the Year’

The B’laster Corporation – makers of the penetrant, PB B’laster – has once again partnered with Tomorrow’s Technician to search for the B’laster Instructor of the Year.

The B’laster Instructor of the Year program recognizes exceptional automotive technology instructors at high schools, vo-tech programs and community colleges across the United States.

“Celebrating the hardworking men and women in vo-tech classrooms across the country is a huge honor for us,” said Randy Pindor, president and chief operating officer of B’laster. “So many of these instructors are scraping together resources to provide cool learning opportunities for their students. We are excited to hear and share more of their inspiring stories, and to be able to support their projects.”

Each month, Tomorrow’s Tech and B’laster will choose an instructor story to feature in the magazine and online. Seven instructor stories will be chosen from August 2019 through April 2020, and those instructors will be entered into the final round to be named the B’laster Instructor of the Year in May 2020.

Automotive technology instructors are invited to nominate themselves, or – new this year – students and community members can nominate their instructors that are doing an exceptional job. Nominations can be submitted at tomorrowstechnician.com/instructor-of-the-year

Last year’s winner was Joe Mendola from Gaither High School in Tampa, Florida.

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Pickens Technical College Instructor Named August Finalist For 2020 ‘B’laster Instructor Of The Year’

Tomorrow’s Technician and B’laster are once again looking for instructors who “think outside of the toolbox” with the second-annual “B’laster Instructor of the Year” program. Our August Finalist shares how a cancer diagnosis changed his perspective on teaching and inspired him to create a breakfast program for students in need. 

Words by Ed Martin

I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands, and I knew in high school that my future would most likely involve doing just that. After nearly 30 years of turning wrenches for a living, I decided to become an instructor. I really wanted to pay back the industry that had provided for my family, and I wanted to do it in a meaningful way.  

The reason I chose teaching was because the last 15 years in the shop, I had become a teacher, coach, and mentor to many apprentices. Many of them told me that I explained things in a way they could remember and that made sense to them. This led me to believe that I could reproduce this in a larger scale by pursuing classroom teaching. 

I approached my local technical college and asked them how I would go about getting a teaching job, and it just so happened that they had an opening. Eleven years later, it is still the best career decision I ever made.

I’m telling my story in hopes of inspiring others to reach out and make a difference in the lives of their students. In my first year of teaching back in 2009, I was diagnosed with cancer. It really took a toll on my body and my emotional well-being. By the time 2012 rolled around, the cancer had returned twice and I ultimately lost half of my tongue and all of the lymph nodes in my neck. 

My doctors were very concerned and encouraged me to undergo further chemo treatments, which I politely declined (I had been through enough). It was at this point that the doctors estimated that I had anywhere from 12 to 18 months to live. Getting news like that changes how a person thinks about things. 

From that point on my perspective on life changed, I was no longer concerned about material things, but more on building relationships and serving my students to the best of my ability. I started making a conscious effort every day to be a better leader in my program.

Fast forward to the Tuesday right before Thanksgiving in 2016, I overheard a couple of students talking and what I heard broke my heart. One student mentioned to the other that he had not eaten in three days. I really felt this because with all of my cancer treatment and side effects, it has left me to support myself on mostly liquids and some very soft foods, because of this I find myself hungry more often than I care to admit.

I made a decision in that moment that I would do whatever it took to make sure my students’ basic needs were met. I started out small by simply showing up the next day with several boxes of cereal and some milk. All of it disappeared and many of the students were very thankful for what I offered. I have not missed a day since, and I feed over 100 automotive students breakfast and lunch every day. I call it the Breakfast Club, and it has grown beyond anything I could have ever imagined. It has actually grown beyond anything I could do on my own. Along with my own contributions, the members of my church often do fundraisers to help me keep it going.

What I love about doing this is seeing the side effects I hadn’t thought of. For example, attendance improved dramatically. I saw less tardiness, and I also saw higher completion rates in our program. The students also can and do donate to the Breakfast Club financially, and they help clean up the room every day. 

 My teaching philosophy is simply this: I will use any means to help the student understand the concepts that I am trying to teach them. Often that means trying many different strategies and approaches to learning. For example, when teaching the automotive battery, we go out in the shop and I hand the students a card that has a part of the battery on it. They assemble themselves into a battery and we discuss the various parts in detail. When it comes to completing NATEF tasks, I use the approach: “I do, we do, you do, then, you teach.”  If I can get them to the level of being able to teach or demonstrate a task, they have a far better chance of remembering it later.

I am an example of how a person can overcome something very difficult and still contribute to the success of others. I had to learn how to talk, and how to eat all over again. The chemotherapy and radiation treatments left me 100 pounds lighter and barely able to walk. It left me with going on 10 years of continuing side effects, but I have never given up. I give all I can every day and my students notice my efforts.

One day a student came up and handed me a paper he had written for a class he was taking in his home high school.The assignment was to write about someone who they admired most in their lives, the paper was written about me and it brought tears to my eyes. He wrote specifically about how he would never give up because he had seen me overcome so much and still give 100%. This is exactly the kind of impact I wanted to make. I know now that my efforts are paying off and that by investing in building relationships with my students, they now know they have value, and that they are loved.

Bio: Ed Martin is the transportation chair and one of 6 automotive instructors at Pickens Technical College in Aurora, Colorado. Ed 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. Ed is an ASE Master Technician with additional certifications in Advanced Engine Performance, MLR, and Light Duty Diesel.

For more information or to nominate an instructor for the B’laster Instructor of the Year program, visit TomorrowsTechnician.com/instructor-of-the-year.

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B’laster, Tomorrow’s Tech Launch Second Annual Nationwide Search For ‘B’laster Instructor of the Year’

The B’laster Corporation – makers of the penetrant, PB B’laster – announced today its second annual search for automotive technology B’laster Instructor of the Year. In partnership with Tomorrow’s Technician magazine, B’laster will again recognize exceptional automotive technology instructors at high schools, vo-tech programs and community colleges across the United States.

“Celebrating the hardworking men and women in vo-tech classrooms across the country is a huge honor for us,” said Randy Pindor, president and chief operating officer of B’laster. “So many of these instructors are scraping together resources to provide cool learning opportunities for their students. We are excited to hear and share more of their inspiring stories, and to be able to support their projects.”

Each month, Tomorrow’s Tech and B’laster will choose an instructor story to feature in the magazine and online. Seven instructor stories will be chosen from August 2019 through April 2020, and those instructors will be entered into the final round to be named the B’laster Instructor of the Year in May 2020.

Automotive technology instructors are invited to nominate themselves, or – new this year – students and community members can nominate their instructors that are doing an exceptional job. Nominations can be submitted at tomorrowstechnician.com/instructor-of-the-year

Last year’s winner was Joe Mendola from Gaither High School in Tampa, Florida.

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Career Video

VIDEO: Meet Joe Mendola – The 2019 B’laster Instructor of the Year

During the 2018/2019 school year, Tomorrow’s Technician and B’laster Corporation – makers of the penetrant, PB B’laster – partnered to search for automotive technology instructors who think outside of the toolbox with the first-ever “B’laster Instructor of the Year” program.

Our inaugural B’laster Instructor of the Year was Joe Mendola of Gaither High School. Read the May 2019 cover story to learn even more about Mendola, here.

Stay tuned for a special announcement about the 2020 B’laster Instructor of the Year program next week!

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Joe Mendola: The 2019 B’laster Instructor of the Year

Tomorrow’s Technician and B’laster Corporation – makers of the penetrant, PB B’laster – partnered to search for automotive technology instructors who think outside of the toolbox with the first-ever “B’laster Instructor of the Year” program.

Throughout the school year, we shared the stories of seven amazing automotive instructors who were in the running to be named the B’laster Instructor of the Year winner.

Here is the story about our inaugural B’laster Instructor of the Year: Joe Mendola of Gaither High School.


Joe Mendola is a car guy through and through. Mention a town near Tampa, Florida, and Joe has probably restored a car parked in a nearby driveway. He’ll describe the car in vivid detail down to what’s under the hood, and even remember where he bought the parts. 

As the automotive instructor at Gaither High School, Mendola has passed on that enthusiasm and passion for automotive repair onto his students.

Catch a Gaither auto student in the shop and they’ll show you the vehicles they’ve fixed and the cars that will make it to the drag strip with an excitement that mirrors their instructor. Mendola’s creative teaching and his dedication to his students made him the clear winner of the inaugural B’laster Instructor of the Year award.

“Joe Mendola’s deep passion for his craft and his students showed in the projects they are working on and in his efforts to connect his students to both the industry and the wider community surrounding Gaither High School,” says Randy Pindor, president and COO of B’laster. “This unique level of passion and dedication was what we were looking for in the Instructor of the Year.”

Because of Florida

To really understand Mendola’s passion for teaching, restoration and racing, you have to go back to where it all started: Florida. Upon meeting him, you’d always think he lived in Florida with his laid-back vibe and a subtle tan from the always summer rays, but like many, Mendola left the harsh weather of the Northeast for the sunshine state. 

When Mendola was a teenager his family would leave their home in Buffalo, N.Y., to vacation in Florida every summer. Fascinated by the vehicles that didn’t have all the rust from the harsh Buffalo weather, a young Mendola would spend a good amount of his time at a local auto body shop just staring at the amazing cars coming through the bays. 

“These guys were building hot rods and they had ‘72 Chevelles and ‘69 Camaros, and they bought them brand new and they were still flawless,” recalls Mendola.

“I fell in love deeper with cars, hot rods and drag racing because Florida has some beautiful pieces of iron and there’s a drag strip on an hour away in any direction. And two hours away can put you at a facility that has national events from NHRA.”

Today, Mendola has turned that childhood fascination of racing and vehicle restoration into a career as the automotive technology instructor at Gaither High School. But, he got there by chance.

From Drag Strip to Classroom

Before teaching, Mendola worked a variety of jobs. As a kid, he had his own garage and truck, which he used to start his own towing business. Mendola later worked in automotive repair and later owned his own shop. He has been an ASE Master Certified technician for more than 30 years. 

Mendola also started drag racing, which was what drove him straight into the classroom. 

“I used to go to the local high school and bring my race car and do classes on how the race car worked, why it worked that way,” says Mendola. 

“I even went to some of the grade schools and did classes and I really enjoyed it. And I noticed that I had 100% attention at all times.”

Other instructors noticed how much the students liked Mendola. A friend suggested he try teaching and got him a temporary job at Gaither High School.

“He got me hooked immediately. I got here and I was going to fill in for one year, and 19 years is gone already and it’s like I never worked a day.”

When Mendola started teaching, racing just became a part of that, too. In 1992, he founded Mendola’s Motorsports with his sons with a ‘73 Chevy Vega NHRA Super Gas car and his team continues to race in NHRA events. He has spent nearly 20 years of his drag racing career working and winning championships with his sons, and many of his students. 

“Joe actually combines racing with automotive, that’s how he teaches,” says Alex Ruiz, a 2014 Gaither graduate and now University of South Florida mechanical engineering student. “And I thought that was really interesting and for someone like me who had no racing experience at all, but just wanted to learn about it, I thought what a cool way to do that being in school to work on race cars.”

The excitement racing exudes is what Mendola helps bring to the classroom by combining racing and teaching. Students experiences automotive repair in a whole new light by working on a car that will get to see pushed to its performance limits. Their current projects include a yellow 1973 Ford Pinto drag race car that is completely student built and a 2002 Winston Cup Monte Carlo.

“If there’s a performance car or drag car that has brake lines that needs to be rebuilt, and double flared, it seems like the students say, ‘Wow, he’s trusting me to do this most prestigious thing on this car that it’s going to be used and everybody’s going to see,’” says Mendola. 

Beyond racing, Mendola is also a huge advocate of virtual learning and has a Smart Board set up in the classroom to use the web-based learning program, Electude. The virtual program features a 4-cylinder car that students can diagnose and repair. It’s scan tool feature also prepares students to use equipment that can be challenging to afford.

The Gaither Legacy

“I think what ultimately made the decision for us to choose Joe Mendola was his life-long expertise and passion that goes beyond just teaching the technical skills in the classroom,” says B’laster’s Pindor. “He really connects the students to their community, therefore, teaching them life skills to take with them into the professional world.”

Because of Mendola’s years of teaching, it’s not hard to find a technician in area who had him as an instructor and found success because of his class.

“To see what I produced is unbelievable. It’s just unbelievable,” says Mendola. “I didn’t do anything other than come here and enjoy the day…You can go across the street to any of these shops and walk in and ask if anybody went to Gaither and they’ll all raise their hand.”

Mendola is always there for his past and present students, even outside of the classroom. Calls are always answered and helping students is always a priority.

“He is a very generous instructor,” says William Gildersleeve, a senior auto student. “He’s always making time to help me with problems that might have with my truck or other students who maybe they might have with their vehicles.”

“I’ve been on the side of the road several times and even at night when he’s watching movies with his wife, he’ll answer the phone and try to instruct me on what to do with the car, so he’s really generous guy,” adds James Hatfield, a senior auto student. 

No one knows Mendola should be the Instructor of the Year more than his students. They not only have an instructor and a mentor, but a friend always willing to help them out whether it has to do with cars or life.

“I think he deserves it with all the stuff he does for his students here,” says William. “He’s always making sure we have cars here to work on. He’s spending a lot out of his pocket to make sure we’re getting the education that we need.”

As for Mendola, the award means so much to him he finds it hard to put into words, but it always comes back to his students.

“I’m really proud of my guys,” says Mendola. “It’s really nice. I kind of feel as if that dash on your tombstone is going to have a lot in there. It’s gonna be full.”


About the B’laster Instructor of the Year Program

During an event at Gaither High School on May 1, Tomorrow’s Tech and B’laster awarded Mendola as the winner with a cooler full of B’laster products for the classroom, a $1,000 donation to the school’s automotive program, a $500 Visa gift card for Mendola, and a one-of-a kind B’laster Instructor of the Year trophy.

In addition to Mendola, the final Instructor of the Year finalists were:

For more information about the B’laster “Instructor of the Year” program, visit tomorrowstechnician.com/instructor-of-the-year/. For more information about B’laster and its products, visit blastercorp.com.

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Tampa Instructor Joe Mendola Named 2019 B’laster Instructor of the Year

As the B’laster Instructor of the Year, Joe Mendola received a $,1000 donation to his school, as well as a $500 Visa gift card for his own use.

Tomorrow’s Technician and B’laster Corporation – makers of the penetrant, PB B’laster – announced today the winner of the inaugural B’laster “Instructor of the Year” search: Joe Mendola from Gaither High School in Tampa, Florida.

“When we sought out to find the ‘Instructor of the Year’, we were looking for an instructor with a unique level of passion and dedication to not only teaching their students the skills they need to be successful, but also someone who nurtures their passion,” said Randy Pindor, president and COO of B”laster Corp.  “Joe is that instructor.”

“In a time where the industry desperately needs quality technicians, it is so important that instructors like Joe pass on their knowledge and passion to future techs,” adds Carley Millhone, editor of Tomorrow’s Tech. “We are thrilled to work with B’laster to recognize Joe for his dedication to his students and the automotive industry.”

During the event at Gaither High School on May 1, Tomorrow’s Tech and B’laster awarded Mendola a cooler full of B’laster products for the classroom, a $1,000 donation to the school’s automotive program, a $500 Visa gift card for Mendola, and a one-of-a kind B’laster Instructor of the Year trophy.

“I tell my students that everything you do is a self portrait, so always do it with excellence,” said Mendola. “This award is a result of that and is a portrait of our program.”

Judges from B’laster narrowed down the winner from seven monthly finalists who were featured in Tomorrow’s Tech.

In addition to Mendola, the final Instructor of the Year finalists were:

  • Jay Abitz from Freedom High School (Freedom, Wisconsin)
  • Anthony Migliorini from Northview High School (Brazil, Indiana)
  • Jason Anderson from Okeechobee High School (Okeechobee, Florida)

“The first-ever B’laster ‘Instructor of the Year’ was more successful than we even imagined,” says Pindor.  “The caliber of entries was so impressive that it was very difficult to choose the winner.  We’re really looking forward to doing it again next year.”

Joe Mendola will be featured in the May cover story of Tomorrow’s Tech and in an Instructor of the Year video on TomorrowsTechnician.com. For more information about the B’laster Instructor of the Year program, visit tomorrowstechnician.com/instructor-of-the-year/.

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Northview High School Instructor Named Seventh Finalist For ‘B’laster Instructor Of The Year’

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 shared an automotive instructor’s story who is in the running to be named the B’laster Instructor of the Year winner in May 2019. For more information about the B’laster Instructor of the Year program, visit TomorrowsTechnician.com/instructor-of-the-year.

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.

Words by Anthony Migliorini.

My passion for career and technology education started at an early age. As a kid I would visit my father’s industrial arts shop on the weekends as he prepared for the upcoming week. I was always intrigued watching him prepare materials and service machines, and I had the opportunity to design and build some of my own projects.

It was not uncommon for me to be with my father and be stopped by someone that recognized him. Most of the time it was a conversation to thank him for what that person had learned in his class while in high school.  

I have now been at Northview High School long enough that I am experiencing those conversations that my dad had with his former students. Many of my former students are now married, have children, and are supporting their families through working in the automotive industry. It is a very rewarding career.

The automotive class at Northview High School is a three-hour class that explores the various systems of the automobile. A typical Monday through Thursday consists of one hour in the classroom discussing theory or being in the shop observing demonstrations on how to properly diagnose and repair vehicles. 

The following two hours of our class is set up like an automotive repair facility. I take the role of a service manager and the students become technicians. Customer cars are dropped off daily and it is the students’ responsibility to diagnose and repair the problem in a timely manner. The live work gives the students proper training to be successful upon graduation. I teach in a manner in which we are all involved. I do assign the work and I expect the students to complete the task. However, I enjoy working with them. We work together. In this manner, students learn to ask good questions, manage their time, persist through challenges, and meet deadlines.

Friday’s are our exception for the week. We do not take any customer appointments on Fridays because our Friday’s are deemed “Hot Rod Friday.” On this day, students are divided into teams to work on special projects. Each year we build some type of hot rod. This vehicle may be one of my own, or supplied by a friend for the students to build. Hot Rod Friday was coined because our special projects kept getting put on the back burner as our daily customer cars consumed the entire week. I have always had a passion for hot rods and I wanted to share that passion with my students. In trying to accomplish this goal we have built many cars over the years.

This year is unique in that we have three vehicles being built on Fridays. The first is a 1973 Mustang owned by the superintendent of Clay Community Schools, Jeff Fritz. Mr. Fritz bought the car in 1877 as a teenager from a dealer in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was a one-owner vehicle with about 62,000 miles on it and came stock with a 351 Cleveland two barrel engine. This past year, he purchased a 351 Cleveland four barrel engine for the car and requested that the Northview High School auto shop class install the new engine. They will be doing some other work on the car as well. The students enjoy working on the Mustang, but I believe they have developed a sense of pride in the car knowing who owns it. They are proud that he trusts them with his car and they are passionate about completing the job.

The second project is a 1962 Chevy truck that I personally own. This truck is receiving a new front suspension and power disc brakes. A good supply of PB B’laster was necessary to remove the old torsion bar front end to make way for the new coil spring cross member. The powertrain has been upgraded with an LS engine from a 2004 Silverado. The original wiring harness was tattered, so the students removed every inch of wiring and installed a new harness.  With so many different systems being worked on, this has been a challenge for the students. They have had to learn to plan ahead and work as team to ensure work can progress from week to week. If something doesn’t get done, or a part doesn’t get ordered, the project is at a standstill.

Our final Friday project is owned by a close friend. He has supplied us with a 1965 Cobra Replica. The students have been busy all year building the chassis, installing drivetrain and brakes, and installing the wiring harness. This car came to us as a fairly bare chassis. It started out as a pretty overwhelming project. At the beginning of the year we developed a game plan and have stayed on task with that plan. We just recently we able to start the engine for the first time. That is a huge reward for us and an incentive to keep moving forward.

The highlight of my career occurred last year. Each year we compete in an automotive skills competition at Ivy Tech. One of my students, Taylor Crafton, took first place in the senior division of the skills competition in 2018. She was the first female ever to win the competition and it has been an annual event for more than 15 years. Since winning the contest she has attended Ivy Tech working toward an associate degree in automotive technology. She is also attending Indiana State University to obtain a teaching degree in career and technology education. She has been hired by Clay Community Schools as the instructional assistant in my automotive service program. It has been wonderful to work with her this year.  She is eager to help all of our students succeed. The guys in the class count on her to help them with numerous projects and our growing female population feels comfortable going to her for assistance.  

Our junior, Ryan Bolinger also placed first in his division. Ryan worked very hard to accomplish that goal and has worked hard this year to set an example for other students on the work ethic and professionalism that we expect. He has had several job offers as a result of the contest and has a very bright future ahead of him.  It was a very special day that I will never forget.

Skilled trades are in high demand. In the education world where we continue to see the elimination of CTE classes and the struggle to find CTE teachers for those who are retiring, I hope that we will see a turn in direction soon. Career and technology education is vital to our economy, we will always need people that can build and repair things. I hope that I can work to see my program build and hopefully inspire students to work in a trade and have a career that is as rewarding as mine.

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Career

B’laster Names Top Four Finalists For 2019 ‘Instructor Of The Year’ Program

Tomorrow’s Technician and B’laster Corporation – makers of the penetrant, PB B’laster – are excited to announce the Top Four Finalists of the first-ever “Instructor of the Year” program.

In partnership with Tomorrow’s Technician magazine, the B’laster Instructor of the Year program recognizes the automotive technology instructors at high schools, vo-tech programs and community colleges who think outside of the toolbox.

The top four finalists include:

  • Jay Abitz from Freedom High School in Freedom, Wisconsin (October)
  • Anthony Migliorini from Northview High School in Brazil, Indiana (April)
  • Jason Anderson, from Okeechobee High School in Okeechobee, Florida (August)
  • Joe Mendola from Gaither High School in Tampa, Florida (March)

“Narrowing the finalists to four was not an easy task,” said Randy Pindor, president and COO of B’laster Corp.  “Our four choice instructor finalists were chosen based on the unique implementation of their passion for teaching, but also for the trades.  These guys really give it their all.”

Judges from B’laster selected the Top Four Finalists from the seven monthly finalists featured in Tomorrow’s Tech. The instructors entered the contest by sharing their stories about an unconventional build, project or system that makes their classroom different with Tomorrow’s Tech. The Top Four Finalists will each receive a swag bag and products from B’laster for their achievement and be in the running for the Instructor of the Year Award, announced in May.

The winning instructor will receive:

  • A special visit from Tomorrow’s Tech staff and B’laster;
  • An exclusive feature on the Instructor of the Year in the May 2019 issue of Tomorrow’s Tech, plus a video and web story about the winner on tomorrowstechnician.com;
  • A $1,000 donation to the instructor’s auto program; and $500 for the instructor’s own use;
  • B’laster products for the classroom; and
  • A one-of-a-kind B’laster Instructor of the Year trophy.

“When it comes down to it, the winner will be chosen based on the criteria of the contest, which is to show us how they think outside of the toolbox,” said Pindor.  “We applaud all of the finalists for their hard work and dedication to their profession. We are already looking forward to the second annual B’laster Instructor of the Year.”

For more information about the B’laster Instructor of the Year program, visit tomorrowstechnician.com/instructor-of-the-year/.