“I have encouraged and promoted the importance of being honest and putting forth your best work in all of my classes. I hope by stressing these important attributes and trying to lead the students by example they will all work hard, learn from mistakes, and be honest with their customers and employees.”

Jay Hales has taught automotive service technology at Riverton High School in Riverton, Utah, since 1999. Growing up, Hales first developed an appreciation for vehicles while working at his hometown gas station, an interest that later became a career after receiving his degree in Technology Education at Southern Utah University. Hales’ passion for giving back to society is ultimately what led him to public education, as well as his service in the Utah Army National Guard as a light wheel vehicle mechanic. Throughout his teaching career, he has kept his automotive and teaching skills current by working outside of school hours at local automotive businesses and teaching at local community colleges. He holds 11 Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications, has been named Advisor of the Year for SkillsUSA Utah, and previously won the Huntsman Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Hales enjoys many aspects of his career, but high on the list is the constant change and learning opportunities involved in teaching. He updates his curriculum to stay current with the annual ASE Accreditation Maintenance and Light Repair standards. He also keeps a close eye on advancements in the automotive industry, and has taken a particular care to integrate electric vehicle technology and maintenance into his curriculum, noting that students must have both internal combustion experience and electric vehicle skills to be highly marketable in their careers. Hales attends additional electric vehicle training to offer the most up-to-date instruction to his students, and is helping to establish a new Electric Vehicle course that will be offered in Utah next year.

On top of industry preparedness and accessibility, Hales emphasizes organization, collaboration and opportunity in his class. The space is set up with long lunch-style tables, so students can sit directly across from each other and work through assignments together. Each class begins with the day’s learning objectives so students are aware of expectations. They start with shop safety and a unit on tool identification and demonstration before moving to hands-on learning in the 12-bay shop space. Students rotate between stations to work on different foci, such as identifying parts and performing maintenance checks. While Hales is always observant of students’ work, he prefers to let them work through lessons independently or in small groups so they can take ownership of their work, learn from mistakes, and gain confidence in their abilities.

Hale’s course is ASE-accredited and also offers apprenticeship opportunities, sponsored through the Ford ACE program. His curriculum is aligned with Weber State University, giving students up to 12 transferable credit hours if they choose to pursue an automotive associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Online training used in the program also offers up to 111 industry courses and certificates through Ford ACE, A/C Delco Trainings, and SP2. Hales’s students showcase their skills at a variety of competitions as well, including the UVU Auto Expo, Weber State Automotive contests, and SkillsUSA regional, state and national competitions.

Hales was previously a finalist for the 2020 and 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.

“Teaching students current and up to date information is highly needed in our constantly changing world.”