Richie del Puerto instructs Automotive Technology at Sno-Isle TECH and serves as a liaison with other instructors and industry partners.Meadow Hart, a junior from Henry M. Jackson HS in Mill Creek, and Quentin Thompson, a senior from South Whidbey HS, work together on learning lift safety issues. Maddy Johanson, a junior from Arlington High School, performs a lift safety inspection with other students at Sno-Isle TECH.Maddy Johanson, a junior from Arlington High School, performs a lift safety inspection with other students at Sno-Isle TECH.

Educating educators — longtime instructor teams with group to move industry forward

Sno-Isle TECH alumnus also helms AT program preparing tomorrow’s techs

Everett, Wash.—An informal group of veteran automotive instructors is using their experience and insights to drive important educational issues home to today’s trainers.

For the past 17 years, Richie del Puerto has been the automotive instructor at Sno-Isle TECH, a fixture in South Everett for decades. Situated across from one of the large Boeing airplane assembly plants, it serves 14 local school districts and 43 high schools with programs that range from aerospace to culinary arts, electronics engineering to automotive technology.

 Now, del Puerto is serving as a coordinator for that informal group of automotive teachers in the Northwest. Formed by now retired Fred Donaldson, an automotive instructor at Auburn High School for more than 20 years, it keeps educators abreast of issues pertinent to their programs, such as funding, OSPI interface, changes in education requirements and curriculum, etc., as well as industry relationships with trade groups.

Each year during the Automotive Training Expo (ATE) in SeaTac, the group meets to review pertinent issues and get updates from ASA Northwest officers as to how schools and industry can work better together. With some 70 automotive instructors attending ATE to fulfill their 20 hours of required ongoing training, there is a built-in audience available for the educator’s meeting.

“One important role I’ve played so far is being a liaison between instructors and industry,” del Puerto said, “but one of the more important roles has been serving as a liaison between the instructors and OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction). At ATE, I submit for approval of clock hours that instructors earn by attending ATE, as well working with ASA staff and members to enhance the relationship between education and industry.”


Sno-Isle TECH program

Del Puerto is a product of Sno-Isle as he attended beginning and advanced auto courses at nearby Snohomish High School before attending Sno-Isle in his senior year. After 13 years as an ASE-certified technician in independent shops, del Puerto accepted the teaching position at the school.

Certified in 2004 by NATEF (now the ASE Education Foundation), del Puerto said the automotive program currently has 44 junior and senior high school students enrolled in morning and afternoon classes, including some from South Whidbey Island School District who take a state ferry each day to attend classes. There are 13 service bays and 10 lifts in the shop that shares some space with the Diesel Power Technology program.

“We interface with some aspects of the diesel program when it works for both classes, including team teaching electrical systems. We also share a tool room with them,” he said, adding that there is also an Auto Body program on campus.

The school has four quarters and two semesters with Automotive Technology as a one- or two-year program.

“We are not an open entry/open exit program,” he said, adding that his goal is to provide opportunities for students by working with several schools and often having instructors visit and explain what they offer.

Those schools include Skagit Valley College (Mt. Vernon), Shoreline Community College (Shoreline), Renton Technical College (Renton), Perry Institute (Yakima), and UTI (various campuses).

Instruction at Sno-Isle includes brakes, steering and suspension, electrical, engine repair, and engine performance. “We also cover safety issues and shop fundamentals as part of the curriculum,” del Puerto said.

Students work on donated vehicles and a few student cars, and use Snap-on Modis and OTC Evolve scan tools for diagnostics. "We chose those brands because they are widely used in independent shops,” del Puerto said.

With about 10 industry professionals serving on his advisory council, del Puerto said he values the input from industry, and appreciates the donations of cars, engines, transmission, and other products that assist with his instruction process.

Several aftermarket classes are held at the auto tech facility, complementary to industry if students attend.

“We had a recent NAPA class and 15 of our students participated. On November 8, we’re very pleased that the Sno-King North Chapter meeting (of ASA Northwest) will be held here.”


CTE gaining recognition

With a realistic view of public education, del Puerto said that Career & Technical Education (CTE) in Washington is slowly gaining the recognition it requires.

“The superintendent of OSPI is a supporter of CTE, as are other individuals at the state level, including Sarah Patterson, the OSPI Skilled & Technical Science Pathway rep.

“Funding for CTE is still greatly lacking and programs are expensive to run, but the rewards are great. Students learn real-world employable skills when enrolled in CTE programs, and it’s rewarding to see students transition into contributing members of our society. That’s awesome.”

Skills centers may be in danger of drastic changes in 10 years, del Puerto said, as full-time technical high schools emerge, and CTE funding issues are addressed on the state level.

“In education, the pendulum always swings, so we will see how it all works out, but what we do know is that there is a serious need for qualified technicians and we have the support of our industry partners.”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.