Aviation Maintenance Technology Program Director Flies Away
When Jason Alves became a student at the Aviation Maintenance Technology program in June 1991, he could not imagine that he would be leaving that same Fresno campus again almost 29-years later.
“I hate to leave SJVC Aviation; it’s been my home for so long. But the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is the only thing that could take me away, because to us aircraft mechanics, to have the honor of being a FAA Inspector is the pinnacle of our career,” says Jason.
The Fresno Aviation campus (now Fresno – Trades Education Center) was where Jason first acted on his three career goals. “My first step was to be an A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) mechanic,” he explains. “My second goal was to become an IA (Inspection Authorization) mechanic – an additional privilege in A&Ps. My third goal, which I got about 9-years ago, was a DME (Designated Mechanic Examiner).”
After graduating from SJVC in late 1992, Jason spent the next 11-years working on aircraft engines for Rolls Royce. But he had stayed in touch with the Aviation campus where he had excelled as a student and deepened his love of aircraft. One day he got the call to come back, this time as a faculty member for the Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) program.
It was 2003 and Jason wasn’t used to standing in front of a roomful of students with big dreams of those beautiful flying machines. In recent years he had been working along side those intimately familiar with how those majestic aircraft stayed airborne. It was a big change in audience.
“Seventeen years ago, I was a good mechanic, but I was not a good teacher,” he remembers. “It was hard for me to share knowledge with kids who didn’t know anything about airplanes. Saying things in a way they would understand as opposed to someone who knows about planes and understands the concepts.”
Jason helped bridge that gap with his students by going back to college. “I got my Bachelor’s degree in teaching and I learned proper methods and better ways to teach.”
He also had a lot of support at work. “Carole Brown and Sumer Avila encouraged me to take my knowledge of mechanics and translate that into being a better teacher. They taught me how to inspire students and how to use my skills to show students how to be better mechanics.”
Just six months into his faculty position at the Aviation campus Jason was in a team meeting that set the course of his teaching style. “Carole made a statement that always stuck in my head. She said, ‘If you ever lose your passion (for teaching), I want you to quit.’ “I’ve told my students and fellow instructors, ‘You have to have passion in life or you’re not going to be successful’.” It was a key ingredient.
Jason has lots of favorite moments to share as he moved from the AMT faculty position to Academic Dean and finally Program Director. There is one memory that helped him better serve all positions.
The campus enjoys a graduation ceremony once each year for students who have successfully completed their programs. Friends and family join in the celebration of their loved-one’s success. “Watching those students walking down the aisle in cap and gown, their families there, makes the sacrifices worth everything,” says Jason. There are pivotal moments that solidify the need to make every effort toward student success.
There was one student a few years ago who took three years to make it through the year-and-a-half long Aviation program. “At graduation his parents came up to me and thanked me for not giving up on him,” says Jason. “That always stuck with me because I actually told him in the beginning that perhaps this wasn’t his calling in life. And he definitely proved me wrong.” This young man has been working full-time in his field ever since. “He’s happy. I bumped into his parents and they were still thanking me, three years after graduation.” Lesson learned.
In his new position Jason will inspect dozens of aircraft repair stations “making sure they maintain aircraft in accordance with Federal regulations, using proper procedures,” he says. He will also remind those mechanics of the importance of what they do for a living. “Being an aircraft mechanic is not glamorous; it’s the pilots that get all the glory. But it’s the mechanics that keep that plane going.”
From the beginning of his work at SJVC, Jason has focused on the nuts and bolts of the Aviation program, as well. “I like to think I brought the program into the 21st century,” he says. “I started to update the curriculum to reflect modern aircraft and industry standards to be more reflective of 2020. I hope that is a legacy I leave behind.”
Jason also wants to leave an important message for current and future AMT students. “I waited 25-years to get to this point in my life, but I’ve always kept that goal in mind. Every step I took was me working towards my goal. Be resilient. Don’t chase the big money, but just keep going forward at a steady pace.”
Jason will stay close to the TEC campus and keep an eye on those finding their career wings in aviation. “SJVC has been part of my life since I was 19-years old. I don’t see myself ever leaving this place. I think I started something good here and I’d like to see the program keep growing even after I leave.”
Jason has enough career passion for everyone to share.
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