During what would be my last two years of teaching, I spent time in the evenings attending a local community college. I enrolled in a handful of automotive technology classes and some audio engineering ones as well. I wanted to learn more about working on my DeLorean, and I was also wanting to learn more about the music world outside of education. I had always spent time out in the garage with my dad while he was maintaining the family vehicles when I was growing up, so I was familiar with the basics, but I was wanting to dive deeper into what made cars work. I was surprised at how much the automotive classes grew on me and it was very eye-opening for me to realize I could still be successful at something after the struggles I was having finding my footing as a teacher. I was soon drawn to the full manufacturer-sponsored technician training programs that the college hosted as a possible next step, but I knew it would take some planning.
The programs were sponsored by Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda. They were each two years in length and students who completed them graduated with factory certification and various technical certificates from the college. Students who completed the core class (math, history, etc) requirements could also obtain an Associate of Applied Science degree, which is what I opted for since my core requirements had been met by my music degree. There was a limit of how many students could be accepted each year, as part of the year was also spent interning at a local dealership to obtain real-world experience and the instructors had to be able to monitor everyone.
I was interested in Toyota's program, called the Technician Training and Education Network, or Toyota T-TEN, the most out of all the choices, as it was the only manufacturer at the college that offered training on regular and luxury brand cars (Lexus), as well as training on hybrid vehicles. I emailed the lead instructor, Mr. Tran, to introduce myself, and we arranged a meeting at the college so I could speak to him in person and view the facility. I was extremely interested in moving away from teaching at this point, but I knew I had to have a solid plan to exit. By that time, James and I had our own house and I had purchased a third car - a 2012 Jeep Patriot to use as my daily driver, so there were definitely bills to pay. I told Mr. Tran that I was really eager to enter the program, but I would have to teach for another year first so that I could evaluate my savings and budget and prepare myself to leave the teaching world behind and leap across to something I had never before imagined myself doing.
My last year of teaching was filled with planning and purchasing in preparation for the T-TEN program. I obtained steel toed shoes and clothing that was durable but wouldn't scratch the cars that I would be leaning over to work on. I also had to purchase and stock my own rolling tool box with a list of required tools for Toyota. Some were specific to Toyota cars, but most were just the essentials for working on any kind of vehicle. I had a few small sets at home, but nothing that could handle the rigors of daily use. By the time my fourth year of teaching was drawing to a close, I was completely set to resign my position and celebrate my final summer off (that plan came to a halt with a single phone call...more on that later). Everyone asked why I would give up so many holidays and breaks to go and do something else, but I was more than willing to trade downtime for a better working environment that was more fulfilling. It was a no-brainer to me...
Of course, I was the only girl in the class of about 20 people. I didn't really expect anything different - I was the only girl in the previous automotive classes I had taken as well. We had all come from different walks of life and had different levels of automotive experience, but the instructors, Mr. Tran, Mr. Ham, and Mr. Mobley did a great job teaching all of us. I very quickly formed a strong friendship with Trin and Roel, a Toyota and Lexus tech, respectively, who had known each other for years. We were then joined by an international student named Aniekan who had just recently come to the States from Nigeria to attend school. The four of us named ourselves Team Supra and we were inseparable. Even now, all three of them are like brothers to me and although we went our separate ways at the end of the program in 2015, we still check in on each other from time to time and go out to dinner just like we used to during our class breaks. I ended up not working for Toyota after I graduated from T-TEN but the skills I learned and friendships I made were something that I will always keep with me.
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Hi, I'm Sarah and I'm a car nut, bird lover, and musician. I have recently transitioned from music teacher to automotive service manager, and there have been lots of cool stories and crazy characters along the way!