“I always try to post success stories of students to draw interest from the outside and promote my program. I also post job openings and pictures of field trips and projects. This gives students much needed recognition and also helps to dispel the myth that vocational schools are a dumping ground or for the ‘bad” kids.’ Many parents still hold these old biases until they set foot on our campus. Unfortunately, it is hard to get them on campus but once they do and speak with an advisory member or former student; they become believers!”
Gary Bronson is in his eighth year of teaching industrial diesel mechanics at Laurel Oaks Career Campus in Wilmington, OH, bringing to his teaching nearly two decades of experience as a professional diesel technician and mechanic. Inspired by the engines and automotive classes he took in high school, Bronson went onto work as a mechanic for Western Ohio Truck, which he described as an amazing learning experience, and attended the Mercedes Benz School in Chicago. As part of his next job with Airborne Express as a mechanic, he traveled throughout North America, and also began substitute teaching at Laurel Oaks. Bronson subsequently left industry to become a full-time teacher with the aspiration to become a role model for future generations. To do so, he seeks to develop strong personal relationships with his students, encouraging them to pursue their passions and education with purpose, no college debt and above all, to derive meaning and satisfaction from a job well done.
In Bronson’s lab, students utilize basic electrical principles to tackle engaging projects –ranging from mobility scooters to large boats and jet skis– thus enlivening the class and keep the learning fresh and rewarding. Student teams start with shop safety and procedures and advance to overhauling engines. His students work on an International ProStar truck, replacing the brakes, wiring the lighting and completing its annual inspection. Under Bronson’s leadership, the truck project has engaged other skilled trades students at Laurel Oaks, as they worked together to debut the truck at the Cavalcade of Customs auto show in Cincinnati. He takes his students on several field trips to Cincinnati each year and actively engages his advisory board to be part of these trips as providers of donations, tours, and future job shadowing and employment.
For the class of 2018, Bronson’s students had an 87% passage rate for Diesel Engines, 92% for Electrical, 92% for Steering and Suspension, and 96% for Maintenance. All of his students received their OSHA 10 card and Forklift Certification and five students passed all 4 areas of the Student Automotive Service Excellence tests. He reported that 82% of his students are employed, joined the military or are going on to college, and that 56% are employed in industry related to his program.
Because his students often struggle with poverty or lack of role models, Bronson heavily emphasizes learning and practice with soft skills. For example, he greets students at the door before class to make all feel welcome; he assesses daily work habits as part of a weekly lab grade (where students are evaluated on lab attire, safety, productivity, and staying on task), and includes reading assignments including case studies on workplace ethics and practices. He teaches his students the importance of precisely documenting and valuing a work order as a legal document, in order to earn a grade or payment. To keep the class humming, Bronson utilizes competitions, including trivia, along with student prizes to recognize student learning, collaboration and success, and to communicate this honor to families and the larger community.
“Being a former vocational student, I know the lifelong impact a vocational education can have on a student. I enjoy being able to give back to my students in and out of school.”