Focus on Faces
12/1/2007 12:09:21 a.m. - Hobbs, NM. In a world where mediocrity has become not only accepted but also celebrated, it is rare to find anything -- or anyone -- genuinely outstanding. However, one New Mexico Junior College instructor recently proved himself an exception.
Sam Gilcrease, who has served as instructor for New Mexico Junior College's General Motors Automotive Educational Service Program (GM-ASEP) for the past two years, was honored on November 30 by members of the GM Corporation and NMJC for earning his World Class Master Technician certification.
Gilcrease, who has served as a high school Advanced Career and Technology (ACT Academy) instructor at NMJC for six of his twenty-five years in the industry, took over the GM-ASEP program two years ago. He soon discovered that to teach all classes in the program, he would need to be master certified. So he immediately began GM's grueling schedule of Web-based training, hands-on experience, and extensive travel to various sites across the nation, such as Dallas, San Antonio, Chicago, Portland, and Houston, all while teaching the program at NMJC. Normally taking anywhere from five to seven years, the training was completed by Gilcrease in only 18 months.
According to Mary Jane Ward, Dean of Careers & Technology, the achievement was no small feat. "What Sam accomplished was equivalent to earning a doctorate. And to do so in such a short period of time is almost unbelievable. We're extremely proud of him since there is only a very small percentage of people who achieve this world-class rank. The result is that this will make our GM-ASEP students even more marketable. They're the ones who will benefit most from Sam's achievement."
W.J. "Bill" Taube, Regional AYES/ASEP Coordinator for General Motors, used the phrase "very impressive" to describe Sam's accomplishment. "Sam had a lot of other responsibilities at the same time he was working on his certification. He had the responsibility of teaching here at the college, he was working with area dealerships, he was recruiting students to the program, he had to travel off-site to the various training centers, he attended seminars and national conferences, he had family responsibilities, and he was dealing with the pressures of handling a new job -- all while he was taking these required classes. He was balancing all these at the same time. That's definitely going above and beyond the norm in this industry. . . . Very few people achieve this certification on a nationwide basis, and as far as I know, Sam's the first ever at NMJC."
Although much has been made of his accomplishment by others, Gilcrease views the past year and a half as a necessary means to an end -- and one that allowed him to combine two of his greatest passions. "I love what I'm doing," he said. "I love working on cars, but I also love teaching and being able to get students to understand different technologies nowadays. For me, there's always been the challenge and the joy of taking something apart and restoring it to its original condition. It's something you can be proud of and know you've accomplished. And now there's joy in being able to see students gain the same enthusiasm I had in the beginning."
Gilcrease's "beginning" refers to his quarter century in the automotive industry where, ironically, he started out in a GM dealership, Doran Chevrolet, which was located on Broadway in downtown Hobbs. After he graduated from Hobbs High School in 1967, he served in the Army Security Agency for four years and even worked in the Lea County oilfields for several years. After buying a '67 Chevelle for $400, he began restoring it and soon discovered that it was more than just a passing interest.
"I became so interested in working on cars that I came out to NMJC in 1975 for a 1-year automotive certificate course. I was going to school here, and Doran Chevrolet became my sponsoring dealership. For me, working on cars was interesting and challenging, and it seemed like the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it."
Enjoy it he did. And today, 25 years later, GM-ASEP students at New Mexico Junior College are fortunate to reap the benefit of a lifetime of "enjoyment." After all, being taught by a qualified instructor is one thing, but being taught by a world-class instructor with enthusiasm and passion and pride for his craft, now that's entirely another.
Lucky, lucky students.