For the second year in a row, B’laster Corporation and Tomorrow’s Tech have partnered to make one of the most difficult choices ever: naming a champion in the Instructor of the Year competition.
The challenge comes down to the fact that there are so many fantastic candidates and amazing teachers out there. If you’re a student, you know the great ones. If you’re a colleague, you can identify a winner immediately. If you’re one of the candidates? Well, you might not think you’re anything special. You’re just doing your job.
On behalf of B’laster and Tomorrow’s Tech, let me assure you – doing your job is EXTREMELY special.
During the 2019-2020 school year, we searched for the best of the best among all of the great mentors, recognizing the auto instructors at high schools, vo-tech programs and community colleges who think who takes an unconventional approach to education, works a little too hard and most importantly, is committed to educating the best future technicians. We feel the Instructor of the Year is far from your typical educator.
Congratulations to Ed Martin from Pickens Technical College in Aurora, Colorado, who has been named B’laster’s Instructor of the Year for 2020. Ed’s inspiring story was featured in the August, 2019 issue of Tomorrow’s Tech. You can read it here. It’s a powerful message that explains how Ed wanted to pay the industry back for providing for his family for nearly 30 years.
The original story involved Ed’s cancer diagnosis, his inspirational determination to continue to do the best he could every day despite it and his commitment to meeting the intellectual and physical needs of his students.
I had a chance to check in with Ed Martin recently to get an update on his classroom, his condition and his commitment.
The new reality of Coronavirus and school closures has meant that Ed has been unable to attend to his student’s physical needs by providing meals as often as he did, but he says he continues to check in on them as much as he can. “If any of you have anything that you need, let me know and I’ll try to meet that need for you. I’ve still been able to do some of that, but not in the former role I had.”
Ed believes the food program was having a significant impact on his students’ lives.
“I was seeing absences go down. I was seeing students were no longer coming in late. They were more engaged in the classroom and the shop because that physical need was met in their life. They weren’t thinking about where their next meal coming from?” I think it made a profound difference on the auto program. I don’t just offer it to my students, it’s every student in the auto program. Anywhere from 75 to 100 students a day would take advantage of that.”
Martin continually talks about the passion he has for his career and how he works hard to instill it into his students.
“The minute you walked into my room, I wanted to make sure the students knew that I had a passion about cars. My room is full of automobile memorabilia and metal signs – It’s like a man cave exploded in my room. It’s all automotive.
“I had my own personal collection of over 400 die-cast vehicles in glass display cabinets in my classroom and out in my waiting area. I try to ignite that love right away, from the first day with them.”
But Ed realizes not everyone feels the same way, so he tries to help each student find that individual passion.
“I tell them, ‘I am here to teach you automotive. But it’s also my job to help you identify your passion – if I can help you identify your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life. If your passion is auto repair, great. You’re going to be fitting in great here. But, if it’s not, let’s find out what it is. In the meantime, you can learn something about your vehicle.'”
Ed’s diverse class is made up of half high school – either juniors or seniors – and half postsecondary. “I’ve had students as old as 78 years old in my class. There’s something about having that mix of ages and life experiences to where they really seem to bond. The older and the younger bond together, and they share those life experiences. I just try to help move that along in that direction and support that.”
Ed says his teaching plans are still up in the air for next fall.
“I’m not alone when I say we all know that the real learning takes place when they get their hands on a car and when they’re filling out those NATEF task sheets. I’ve propositioned my school with a proposal to have about a month’s time during the summer to bring the students in who missed this last half of the semester. With small groups of four of them at a time, we can keep them socially distanced, and I can work with them on the hands-on. I want to help my students learn those hands-on skills that they’ve missed of the last month or two. We were in basic electrical, so voltage drop testing and things like that will be on my list of things to do with them, to get them back up to speed.
“As far as the fall, it’s still unknown whether we’ll be meeting at school, or it’ll still be online. For a lot of this, it’s just been learning how to do something all over again. For me, all the challenges I’ve been through in the last 10 years, just becoming a teacher and trying to keep up with my own health challenges have helped me realize that there’s going to be a way. I’m going to be able to teach these students somehow, some way. I’m not giving up on them, and I’m not giving up on myself.”
Ed says he has had additional surgeries to continue battling the cancer.
“I felt like I was being stabbed in the jaw with a knife all the time – it was because of a bone infection. Once they got rid of that, the pain got better. I always know that things will get better. I just had that attitude that it’s going to get better. I just make it work.
“There’s times that my pain has been so bad that I would never wish it on anybody. I hope that nobody goes through what I went through. But it’s about how you react to it, and how you look at it, and what your options are. Am I going to fight or am I going to give up?”
Ed Martin says it may seem cliché, but the saying is true.
“I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like six months from now, but I’m hoping it’s back in the classroom, back in my shop. When there’s a will, there’s a way.”