By LARRY MITCHELL-Staff Writer ChicoER.com
BUTTE VALLEY — Brad Dressen, a Butte College automotive instructor, was honored recently with a national award recognizing him as college automotive Instructor of the Year.
"I was really surprised when they called me," Dressen said in a phone interview. "I was just amazed."
He and his wife, Denise, went to Charlotte, N.C., to receive the award at a ceremony.
The award was presented by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, which evaluates and accredits automotive programs at high schools and colleges.
His receiving the award was based on test scores and community service, Dressen said.
The tests he took are the ones given to automotive technicians who want to be certified. (They are rarely called mechanics anymore.)
These are the eight Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) tests, which cover engine repair, automatic transmission/transaxle, manual drivetrain and axles, suspension and steering, brakes, electrical and electronic systems, heating and air conditioning, engine performance and advanced engine performance.
Dressen said his community service mostly has consisted of giving safe-driving instructions to teenagers and other drivers at Thunderhill Raceway Park near Willows. One of Dressen's hobbies is auto racing.
Dressen is one of four full-time instructors in the Butte College Automotive Program. There are also three part-time instructors.
Dressen said the program graduates about 24 students a year. It's intense, he said.
Students take automotive classes for four hours a day, five days a week. They can earn a certificate or, by meeting general education requirements, an associate of science degree.
Graduates are ready to go to work as automotive technicians. Dressen himself is a graduate of Butte's program. After finishing it, he went to work for Courtesy Motors in Chico.
Besides those pursuing automotive careers, many other students take beginning automotive courses at Butte just so they'll be more knowledgeable car owners, Dressen said.
Dressen said he was more or less an auto-repair "natural." As a teenager, he began working on cars, basically having taught himself. It wasn't long before he was making money fixing his friends' cars.
In high school, in San Leandro, where he grew up, he didn't get to take automotive courses because he was directed into a college-prep program, he said.
After high school, he attended Chabot College and then transferred to Chico State University, where he majored in geography. Then he went to work, managing a sporting goods store.
Soon, Dressen felt there wasn't much future in the job he held.
"I thought, 'Why don't I do something I like to do?'" he said. "To me, automotive was a fun hobby. I didn't think about making a living at it. I thought, 'why not make a living at what you like to do?'"
So he enrolled in Butte's automotive program.
For 18 years, he worked as an automotive technician, mainly for dealerships: Courtesy Motors, Corning Ford, Wittmeier and Vacaville Dodge.
He taught automotive classes at Orland High School for a couple of years.
Then he began teaching at Butte.
He is now in his ninth year there.