For Luke Wilson and John Rasch, the pathway to teaching started at Kent Career Tech Center, when they were high school students learning the importance of getting real.
As recently hired career education specialists — Wilson at Aviation Maintenance Technology and Rasch at Diesel & Equipment Technology — the new team members bring expert knowledge and real-world experience into the classrooms.
John Kraus, Tech Center principal and the campus principal of Kent ISD Secondary Programs, is full of enthusiasm for his new hires.
“Many of our alumni return to work here because we specialize in success,” Kraus said. “Our instructors and education specialists are at the top of their game, and help us broaden the scope of what our students perceive and understand as they prepare for training after high school, college or into the workforce.”
A 2010 graduate of the Aviation Maintenance Program and Northview High School, Wilson in April joined instructors Todd Olson and Nick Brown in the program’s hangar at Gerald R. Ford International Airport. “This place played a big part in my life,” Wilson said.
It’s all right up Wilson’s alley. The skills he gained from working on airplane engines, airframes and avionics systems makes him versatile and valuable to the team.
“We’re building confidence in our students and that’s what I’m good at,” said Wilson, ducking around the friendly little Cessnas and Pipers and a powerfully aggressive military helicopter, Bell OH-58 Kiowa, to reach the tools cart.
Thoroughly Trained, FAA Approved
In 2012, Wilson attended the School of Missionary Aviation Technology, where he studied in the Ionia flight school’s maintenance program. The next year, he earned an airframe and powerplant certificate, the standard mechanic’s license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.
With clear-eyed determination, he returned to the Tech Center’s hangar for a six-month internship. From there, he landed at Rapid Air, an air rental service in Kent County.
Wilson moved on to a private aviation outfit at the Greenville Municipal Airport, handling maintenance of the company’s airplanes. While working there Wilson decided to pursue his pilot’s license, clocking 30 hours of instructional flight time with 10 additional hours needed to fulfill the FAA’s minimum. The experience of flying an airplane – the things you see, hear and feel – makes Wilson a better airplane mechanic, he says.
At 6:45 a.m. on a typical day, Wilson’s got the coffee percolating and ready to roll. He’s into checklist after checklist, because maintaining an aircraft is primarily about safety first.
“We try to make this more like work and less like school. The students punch a time clock and fill out a daily worksheet,” said Wilson, who also helps with the extra-curricular club for drones. “So we’re about rhythms and routines. We drill that pretty good. We do everything that we can to get them career ready.”
Start Your Engines
At Kent ISD’s main campus, 2005 graduate John Rasch joined the program that harnessed his love of machinery, diesel engines and tinkering. He teams with Tech Center instructor James Cain and Jeff Kollin, a contracted instructor employed by AIS Construction Equipment.
Here at the Diesel & Equipment Technology program, they believe in surrounding students with as many talented professionals as possible, whether that’s on campus with Rasch in the tool crib, or through work-based career and learning opportunities.
Rasch offers the expertise he’s gained in school, the workplace and home. He often pulls a second shift on his family multi-generational farm, peppered with agricultural machinery that has often needed fixing.
With a diploma from Lowell High School, Rasch struck out for Ferris State University. He played football and left with two associate degrees from the School of Automotive and Heavy Equipment, and a bachelor’s in Heavy Equipment Service Engineering with a minor in Fleet Management.
Rasch brings several years of experience to the shop floor from his work at John Deere, Helena Chemical and Fillmore Equipment (now GreenMark Equipment) in Hastings. In charge of the tool supply room, Rasch started the semester by laying out dozens of tools on utility tables for students to identify and use before the term ends.
It’s all designed to give students real-world skills to operate heavy equipment.
“All of this gives them a better understanding of what they’re capable of,” said Rasch, as he helped two students outline a battery in a semitractor-trailer. “We’re lucky that we have so much equipment – all donated by industry.”
He is happy to be able to share what he knows with students who are learning the skills he began learning here more than a decade ago.
“I think that it’s cool that I can come back here and give back,” he said.