Features Issue 5 Magazine

Auto Shop During COVID-19

By Jack Abells

Graphic By Yiying Zhang

The transition to online school has ranged in ease for each class. Some classes were smoother and simpler to adapt to online, while others were seemingly impossible being based in an in-person setting. The Automotive Engineering, or Auto Shop classes were in a position similar to that of last Spring, and were forced to be creative in how they change the class during COVID. 

William Stivale teaches Automotive Engineering at Las Lomas. Stivale has taught for 35 years, both at high schools and colleges. He’s also worked for General Motors to train technicians working at dealerships. During distance learning, Stivale has worked even closer with other Auto Shop teachers in the district: Steve Boone from Campolindo, and Ryan Shelley from Acalanes High School. Stivale comments on the first distance learning experience: “My class in the beginning year, the first level, was about a 50% hands-on class. The advanced class was more 80% hands-on. So that’s where we had a problem with the COVID year.” Stivale continues on explaining that after brainstorming with other Auto Shop teachers they were able to come up with the idea of video demonstrations of procedures for students to watch. Another benefit Stivale mentions is that they will be functional for in-person classes to come. “I would continue to use the videos as a helper teacher out in the shop. So I would present it to the class in the classroom setting, then we would go out in the shop and maybe do a quick demonstration.” 

While the videos, which are embedded with questions, can teach the theory of the subject, they can’t substitute for kinesthetic learning in Auto Shop. “It’s frustrating because I can’t do the hands-on part. Some people learn better by using their hands and taking things apart themselves,” Stivale said. He continues, “Other than that, you don’t get to know the students very well on the Zoom calls. In the past I’ve gotten a lot of people jobs after [high] school, but now I don’t know the kids well enough to even recommend them to do that. I don’t get to see individual students’ abilities because of the way we have to teach right now.” While it may not be as significant as the downsides, Stivale does see a little upside to teaching through Zoom, “The only benefit I can see is that [online school] forced us to work together and to produce the videos that we have always talked about doing.”

Students are also feeling the dramatic impact of distance learning in Auto Shop. “Class just being online makes it greatly different,” said Josh Stemmerich, a Senior taking Automotive Engineering. Stemmerich, having taken the class before, says that while there are “not really” any benefits to taking the class online, he is still able to learn the subject well online. Stemmerich expresses optimism saying, “I just know we all hope to be back soon.”

In the future Stivale hopes the new instructional videos will be useful for students after they graduate. “It’s going to be on YouTube so they can access all the videos online, and if they have a problem with one part of their car they can look up how to do it, they don’t have to remember everything.” For the future of Auto Shop, Stivale wants to expand the program and see more people get interested in it. One way he’d hope to accomplish this would be by creating an all-girls class, since the subject is often male-dominated. 

Classes that normally focus on solely in-person work are now having to find creative ways to adapt. The new academic changes, created to adapt to distance learning, will mostly be used in future instruction. These changes show that in-person school won’t be returning in the same learning format, for better or for worse.