Fairfax County Auto Tech Instructors Share a Love of Teaching

Fairfax County Auto Tech Instructors Share a Love of Teaching

Their good-tuned friendship was geared for results. When sophomore Dominic Prakash and freshman David Plum became buddies through vehicle mechanics classes at Reston’s South Lakes Significant Faculty 40 a long time back, they had no inkling of what the potential held. But currently, the two are even now facet by aspect, educating automobile know-how in adjoining school rooms at Lake Braddock Secondary University in Burke.

“Nobody would have seemed at the two of us in substantial college and put us together,” Prakash states.

Back again in people early days, equally boys exhibited an aptitude and desire in mechanics, although each and every learned in his own way. Prakash was recognized as a gifted pupil. Plum has dyslexia.

“My toughness is in the shop — I like remaining fingers-on,” Plum says. “That’s how I was, and the the greater part of my pupils are likely to discover executing it, not examining about it.”

Prakash agrees that young ones find out from arms-on knowledge. “I feel we the two prosper on our curiosity of how factors perform and our normal mechanical means,” he suggests. “We complement each and every other, ever due to the fact superior faculty.”

Extended Guarantee Friendship

Prakash and Plum commenced their functioning occupations jointly at a aspect career washing dishes at Superb Fritzbe’s Traveling Foods Factory in Reston, which was element of the Terrific American Places to eat chain in its early times. Prakash then graduated in 1985, at some point starting to be a mechanic at JKJ Chevrolet in Tysons. When Plum graduated the pursuing year, he began do the job as an automobile mechanic at Fox Mill Exxon in Herndon. That stint would be temporary, however, as Plum quickly jumped ship to join Prakash.

“We followed every other from dining places to car or truck sellers,” Plum says. 

And so it went. The two worked with each other above the years, relocating from dealership to dealership.

“We’ve been aside a few times, but it doesn’t ordinarily past,” Prakash states.

A radical go did come all through the mid-1990s, when Plum caught wind of an automobile know-how training occupation with Fairfax County Community Universities. Plum was enticed by the benefits alone.

“My father explained, ‘It’s a one-yr deal if you go and you do not like it, you are out the next yr,’” Plum recalls. “That was 27 decades ago.” 

Plum started instructing at Lake Braddock at the commencing of the 1996 university calendar year. Hardly ever far, Prakash aided him make worksheets and lesson programs right after perform. Plum also recruited Prakash to travel an electrical car or truck his pupils constructed for a competitors, an celebration that opened Prakash’s eyes to teaching and getting close to substantial schoolers. 

“I favored performing with the young children,” Prakash suggests. “It had some charm.”

As luck would have it, in advance of the 1999 school yr, an additional auto tech instructor at Plum’s school retired. The work opening grabbed Prakash’s interest. Prakash and Plum had been when once again reunited, this time in an auto tech classroom.

Prakash, still left, and Plum pose with a class in 2006. Photograph courtesy Dominic Prakash

Shifting Gears

“We do the job side by facet — actually,” Prakash says. “I can throw points at him, and he can toss factors at me anytime he wants.”

The duo has now taught in school rooms connected to the vehicle store for 23 yrs, earning a stellar track record between employees and college students in the approach. 

“They definitely improve every single other,” Lake Braddock Principal Lindsey Kearns says. “It’s certainly always a delight to go down there and interact and see what’s heading on in their classroom.”

These days, Prakash teaches Vehicle Tech I, though the two close friends rotate in between Auto Tech II and III instruction, depending on enrollment. Surrounded by old vehicles on lifts, coveralls-clad students in safety goggles simply cannot aid but notice how near the two academics are throughout classroom interactions.

“You can explain to they’ve identified just about every other a really extended time,” says senior Wesley Carlson. The 17-12 months-outdated enrolled in Plum’s Automobile Tech III course and hopes to examine automotive engineering at Penn State. “Their courses are more than just performing on automobiles — it’s also a ton of really fantastic lifestyle lessons they train you. This has been my preferred course in all of superior university.”

Echoing that sentiment, course of 2005 graduate Sean Bean called the duo’s profound impact “the highlight” of his educational job. 

“My junior and senior year, I would have the [auto tech] class each and every working day,” states Bean. “I looked forward to likely to faculty just about every day for that class.” 

Bean took classes from Prakash and Plum for three decades. After graduation and a subsequent associate diploma from Northern Virginia Local community University, he earned an internship with Fairfax H2o. He’s been employed there for 17 several years now and now serves as the fleet supervisor overseeing 500 items of on- and off-highway machines. Bean still credits his experience in classes with Prakash and Plum as a solid basis for his profession.

“They have been mentors,” he suggests. “I unquestionably looked up to them a whole lot and figured out a lot from them.” 

Picture courtesy Dominic Prakash

Driven to Good results

Maria Trester McCall first recognized that possessing some automotive knowledge could be of use when she got a flat tire through the summertime following her junior 12 months. The incoming senior resolved to enroll in Prakash’s automotive tech course as a outcome.

“It finished up being so a lot additional,” she states. When McCall’s 1983 Pontiac Firebird begun going through troubles, Prakash informed her to bring it to school so he could clearly show her how to repair it. With the advice of Plum and Prakash, McCall rebuilt her car’s transmission.

“They advised me what I desired to do and helped me pull the transmission out,” she says. “I did all the labor and acquired it working once more. It was a fantastic sense of accomplishment.”

McCall went on to main in mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech and credits Prakash with fostering her educational pursuits. She sooner or later utilized her skills to her job at the New York–based Knolls Atomic Electrical power Laboratory.

Photo courtesy Fairfax County Public Universities

Placing the Teaching Pedal to the Steel

Currently, the Lake Braddock instructing duo credits their very well-oiled friendship with developing the school’s robust vehicle tech method.

“We really don’t argue we do not struggle,” Plum says. “We have incredibly comparable mindsets on how items really should be completed and the method we have.”

With important demand from customers for automotive specialists, the longtime buddies say they just can’t train long run mechanics quick enough. Students can make Automotive Services Excellence certifications by way of their courses, enabling employment in genuine mechanic retailers. To that end, Prakash and Plum make use of a exceptional “no coddling” educating design that resonates with teens. 

“It’s referred to as Serious Earth 101,” Prakash says. “Our students notify us, ‘You talk to us and handle us like no a person else does.’” 

The men say they give steering, but learners need to acquire initiative with a palms-on solution to learning. Primarily based on his individual daily life experience, Plum connects with youth who uncover a traditional school setting demanding. This industry, he states, is a viable and worthwhile profession path learners may well not be mindful of. 

“I have far better strengths with working with kids that do not want to be in faculty or are having difficulties to keep,” Plum suggests.

Just as they did when the duo started training, pupils currently rave about Prakash and Plum. Learners say they bring a feeling of empowerment to studying many practical expertise, though infusing humor and exciting into their classes. And their substantial-mileage, 40-yr friendship inspires.

“I think they’ll often be good friends,” claims freshman Andrew Downey.

“Till death do them section,” provides sophomore Oliver Crandol.

This story at first ran in our March concern. For a lot more tales like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine.