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Drilling Down: Marty Supple, Automotive Instructor at Artesia High School

California, Los Angeles, CA

Drilling Down: Marty Supple, Automotive Instructor at Artesia High School

Marty Supple has been an automotive instructor at Artesia High School in Los Angeles County since 2006. This summer he will again be leading a summer skilled trades program at Artesia High School funded by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. His high school is one of the few in Los Angeles County that still has an automotive program. We talked to Marty about why skilled trades classes are essential in high school.

How can automotive programs like your program change the trajectory for students in high school?

MS: The students I get sometimes they are floating along for years, and they are not sharing what they want to do when they go to school. When they see this class they realize, “I want to go to school, I want to learn.” They’re going to school because they are told to go to school. Now I want them to go to school because they want to learn. Once they realize they can learn, it’s a confidence builder and it pulls it all together for them.

Why should automotive and skilled trades programs be offered in high school?

MS: I think it’s absolutely necessary. The number of jobs available are almost infinite. There are so many cars and so many opportunities. Don’t look at it just as auto; look at the big picture, it’s transportation. I am here to get my students jobs. If you look at the number of jobs, you tell your principal this is a good foundation to start. If a principal is looking at this program, it should be a slam dunk. When I tell my friends I am an automotive instructor at Artesia High School they say, “They still have it?”

There was a big push in the country over the last several decades that everyone needs to go to college. We made a big mistake. We got a little too pompous. Now we have no plumbers, no construction workers. But I don’t like the argument that it’s college or hands-on learning, it’s college and hands-on learning. It’s just a different skill set.

Miguel Cardona, the current secretary of education, graduated from a vocational high school in Connecticut and was an automotive student. How can he help promote high school skilled trades?

MS: I like him already. It is very important if he can get the word out about how great these programs are. I’d hope he’d really help the local school districts and introduce these programs at more high schools. I am lucky to be here, but I want to see more high schools with these programs. There’s a need.

What is your favorite part of teaching?

MS: Our students come in with different behavioral issues. You can talk about teenagers being bad or you can do something about it. I like the automotive side, but I also like the human side. At the end of the day, I want to see my students grow. I am lucky to have them over several years. I get to see them become the people they want to be, not the people I want them to be. My goal is to put out great people. I always want them to feel important. Sometimes they come to school and there are things going on in their lives and they are kind of lost. I always want to tell them they are important; they could do great stuff and they can make great money and have a great life.

Why are summer programs like the one you have at Artesia High School important for students?

MS: Summer may be the only opportunity that some students may have to take the class. Basically it’s logistics due to possible conflicts during the school year. Any method to introduce students into automotive is desirable; auto classes during the school year, dual enrollment classes with Cerritos College, and, of course, the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools summer program.

What has been the impact of the summer program at Artesia High School from your perspective? 

MS: The word is out that the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools summer auto program was a huge success. The summer class is Auto 140, “Automotive Steering and Suspension.” This is part of the Cerritos College automotive certificate “Entry Level Quick Service Technician.” Students can follow the Artesia High School/Cerritos College pathway. They can see their future. AHS offers Auto 1, Auto 2, and Auto 3. After graduation, they can attend Cerritos College through the “Cerritos Complete” program, which is two years free tuition. While at Cerritos, they can enroll in various automotive programs that have an apprenticeship at a local new car dealership. Our collective goal is to educate our students with a valuable skill set, give them practical experience through the car dealerships network, and continue to educate them as the need arises. When students see we take them seriously by providing a well designed educational pathway, allow them to work in the field during the educational process, and add an incredible amount of life skills, everyone wins. And we will continue to do that everyday while constantly honing our programs to respond to the needs of the transportation industry.

How did you get hooked on cars?

MS: Early on, my dad and my brother and I would go in the garage and start doing things with cars. He ended up giving me the car. It was a 1959 Buick Invicta, and it would only go 22 miles an hour floor boarded. My brother and I went to the store and picked up some parts. I took the engine out. I converted it from automatic to stick shift. That was it. That was the spark. I realized I could do things. It was a confidence builder for me.

What is your favorite car?

MS: I have two Buick Rivieras. I have a 1964 and a 1965. I like my Buick Rivieras. I like Corvettes. The Teslas are gorgeous. It’s not just the mechanics. It’s the history of the car, what people were thinking at the time. I love cars.