In Room 132, the autoshop students attentively observe the teacher’s lesson, while he goes over the mechanics and parts of a car.
“Where do you find safety labels on a car?” they ask during an Oct. 25 class. “How long are car batteries supposed to last?”
The students muse on the answers, discussing their thoughts with each other before the instructor patiently gives them the answer. Before they head off into the auto shop to practice on real cars, he shows them a video from CDX Automotive, a provider about interactive and experiential automotive curriculum.
Newly hired Regional Occupational Program part-time instructor of the Transportation Sector Carl Santiago took over the teaching position Oct. 15 because of his passion for mechanical technology and auto mechanics. He teaches Introductory to Automotive Technology in third, fourth and sixth period, Automotive Technology 2 in fourth period and Advanced Automotive Technology in fifth period. The students in each level are mixed in these class periods.
“I’ve always been into automotive all my life,” Santiago said. “My stepdad was a mechanic teacher in Southwestern College while my real father was a tank mechanic in the army. It’s always been in our family, so I’m following the footsteps.”
His experience with this position goes back to January 1999, where he worked as a store manager, asset protection and internal auditor, as well as a wholesale manager at CSK Auto Inc., a retailer of automotive parts. The company would become O’Reilly Auto Parts 10 years later.
He originally applied to Sunny Hills High School in August 2017 as a part-time instructor while searching for a teaching job.
“I knew I was going to enjoy [teaching] because when your father’s in the teaching field, you know that they take it home with them, like through conversations about what went on through the day,” Santiago said. “Just growing up with that environment, I knew it would be for me, but it took me a while to decide to do it.”
He was thrilled to return to school as a teacher since he reminisced his times in high school.
“I thought, ‘Wow, you know what? I can’t believe it. I’m back in the school system,’ and it brings back memories because I used to be a student,” Santiago said. “Once you graduate from high school, you really wish you could come back and enjoy the things you were doing at the time.”
He hopes that students will carry his lessons in the future by carrying it out in their everyday life.
“I hope that all the students succeed and actually learn something about auto mechanics or the auto program,” Santiago said. “That [way], they can take it with them [and] use it for their own families, own self, friends and neighbors, and perhaps if everything goes right, they might get into an automotive field.”
A substitute took over the class at the beginning of the year before Santiago’s arrival, but the students could not apply their knowledge in the auto shop.
“We weren’t allowed in the shop because the substitute didn’t have a certificate,” senior Christian Han in Intermediate to Automotive Technology said. “But now that Mr. Santiago is here, it’s so much better now that we can practice on the cars.”
Senior Pushti Javiya, who takes Introductory to Automotive Technology, enjoys Santiago’s method of teaching, finding it easy to understand.
“He teaches us in a more practical way compared to other instructors and gives us more real-life examples,” Javiya said. “He’s a kind teacher who never gets angry and is super patient with all the students.”
In his free time outside of school, Santiago enjoys playing all kinds of sports.
“I don’t like to watch sports; I’m a participator, not a spectator,” he said. “Right now, I do tennis at least once a week, and I also go to open meets to compete.”
Santiago advises students to not get discouraged in learning, telling them that it will get interesting once they learn more.
Even if the students do not have a lot of experience, they can still be able to learn a lot in class, he said.
“It may be a little bit overwhelming in the beginning if you hadn’t had any prior lessons or training, but it’s really not that difficult,” Santiago said. “All you [need] to do is show up every day and participate, get your hands out here on the shop and have hands-on training.”