Aviation Maintenance Tech instructor was reluctant student
Joseph Wong never planned to devote any time to education after high school. He loved working on cars and thought a future in auto mechanics would suit him just fine. His thinking was pretty clear. “I left school saying this is not for me,” he says. “No more further educating myself.”
After Joseph put in some time under the hoods of lots of cars, he reconsidered. “I decided automotive was not the way to go,” he says. “I love to get my hands dirty, turning wrenches, but didn’t want to ruin a hobby I loved, so I decided to transfer my passion for mechanics into aviation.”
Joseph enrolled in SJVC’s Aviation Maintenance Technician program at the Aviation campus in Fresno and graduated in 2006. He worked as an aircraft mechanic for Mazzei Flight Service, then for Hiller Helicopters. He liked his work, but something began to bubble up inside; some seeds his father had sewn into his psyche.
“My dad always taught me about things in the world; always simplified things to teach me something new,” says Joseph. Joseph thought that maybe he could give others what his dad had given him. He could become a teacher.
Joseph accepted a position as Industrial Technology instructor at the Fresno campus. After a couple of years, there was an opening for an instructor at the Aviation campus, and he jumped on it.
“I landed on this position without knowing what to expect, but grew a passion for it,” he says. Joseph was determined to give his students everything he had. “I was staying at least one 5-week class ahead of students and shadowed an instructor to learn how to be better prepared to teach the next class.”
Both Joseph and his students thrived in the three years that have since passed.
“Mr. Wong is an outstanding instructor and a caring mentor to our students,” says Jack Macfarlane, Campus Director. “He is, in fact, the first instructor the students at the Aviation Maintenance campus will have for the first 4 months of our 16-month-long program, and his positive influence carries through for the rest of the time students spend with us.”
“I’ve realized that education is a very big key,” says Joseph, who has been strongly influenced by Anitra, his high school sweetheart and now his fiancée. “She never asks anything of me but to be what I want to be. She helps me to have the drive to give what I need to give to these students every day.”
At 30 years old, Joseph is not much older than his students – and many are several years older.
“I’m young so I try to keep a relaxed environment,” he says. “It’s best to learn in an environment that is not run by a dictator.”
That does not mean that Joseph is at all passive in the way he interacts with his students. “I give my students advice on the decisions they will make as an aircraft mechanic and decisions in life in caring for themselves and their families,” he says.
Joseph sees it as his job to help remove obstacles standing in his students’ way. “I assist them so that they can show up more focused. A distracted student isn’t an effective student.”
It does not hurt that the Aviation campus is also a very fun place to work and learn.
“Most of my students are military (ex) and saw fighter jets and people working on them, and that’s what inspired them to be here,” says Joseph. “And, fighter jets are the coolest advanced technology that our government has! There is a lot of prestige in working on them.”
Joseph has to catch himself when he refers to his students as “guys.” There are several women in the Aviation Maintenance Technician program. “There are a handful of females, and they actually do better than most of the men because they’re more guided and have less ego in the classroom,” he says. “They focus on the fact that it is not how fast you get the job done, but how correctly you do it.”
Joseph is very clear about what he gets out of teaching. “I watch students step into class with no (aviation maintenance) experience or knowledge and leave as a professional technician. They leave the program and become something great, something they never would have seen themselves becoming. It is euphoric.”
Student success is a vision Joseph holds onto. “I see big changes in them from when they step in through the door to when they step out of the door,” he says.
It must be nice to know that he helped their stride become a great deal stronger.
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