Faculty in Allan Hancock College’s industrial technology program have a special way of relating to their ever-growing number of students.
Pulling the “I sat in the same seat as you” routine holds more weight around the welding and machining labs because a majority of the faculty have either graduated from the program or taken a class at Hancock before returning to teach in the same classrooms.
The percentage is well more than half of the three full-time and 25 part-time faculty, according to department chairman Eric Mason.
Instructors — only partly in jest — tell students if they do good work, they could get recommended for a job at Hancock, which seems to be how many of the faculty ventured back themselves.
“I think some of them stay in the area, and I think a lot of them have fond memories of being here when they were here,” Mason said. “Some of them, at least in my case, either worked for an instructor or had an instructor they looked up to as a mentor. It was something that I enjoyed.”
Mason grew up in Fresno, moved back there after graduating from Hancock’s program, and returned to Santa Maria in 1998 to work in a body shop several years before a former instructor asked him back to the college.
Auto technology faculty member Patrick McGuire went from a former student to teacher seven years ago after receiving a call from a former teacher.
Part-time instructor Dan Howard, a Santa Maria native, was recruited in the same way three years ago.
Clearly, a trend.
“I let them know that some day one of them should be up here taking over for me when I retire,” he said, noting the earlier connection to Hancock gives instructors more credibility and respect from students. “I think it definitely helps because we’ve been through the system and know the culture. They know what it feels like to be on the other side of the desk.”
“The school in particular was really supportive,” McGuire said. “My parents were both teachers. It really is a calling. I love it.
“I was sitting in that chair,” he added. “It does help a lot. I think they appreciate it. One of the difficulties for young people is seeing a long-term view.”
Howard began attending Hancock as a senior at Santa Maria High School in 1989. He transferred to Cal Poly to earn a bachelor’s degree, spent four years in the Navy, then taught around the area before ending up as a full-time drafting teacher at Pioneer Valley High School and a part-timer at Hancock.
“Why would you want to risk bringing in someone you know nothing about when you know someone who does good work?” Howard asked. “I sure know where they’re coming from. I was one of these guys.”
Faculty members said they’d especially love to be able to recommend their students to work at Hancock once the new Industrial Technology Complex is complete.