Photo by Andrew Gotshall

Mr. Rolle inspects brake grinder with students.

Andrew Gotshall, Annabelle Stuelpe, Reporter

Stepping into the Gaucho Garage for the first time can be overwhelming for some. The sound of lifts rising, tires spinning, engines running, and water spraying. If you happen to come by when the class is participating in shop time, you may as well be in your local mechanic. Upon walking in, three students were busy wrangling a Toyota pickup that had been raised off the floor by one of the two industrial car lifts. While the three students were changing the oil, two more are gathered around a wheel balancer, busy fine tuning the weight of the tires. Another four students are listening to Mr. Rolle lecture about safe use of the brake rotor grinder and two more students are performing tests on a car battery open on the workbench. As one might expect, it is a very hands on class. Students typically get traditional lecturing for the first third of class then work their way into the garage to perform assigned autoshop labs.

Advanced auto shop student sophomore Jacob Reuser elaborates on a typical day in class:

“In the beginning class, after doing a lesson in the book, you get to go out and have shop time. So some days, [Rolle] might have a lab for you, which will consist of maybe learning how to do an oil change, or how to jumpstart a battery. Or like how to do a brake inspection. I like shop time because I can go out with my friends and learn hands-on how to do maintenance on cars,” said Reuser.

There are three periods of beginning auto shop and two periods of advanced auto shop. The introductory classes are made up of students from all different backgrounds, some just needing to fill a class space and others who are passionate about working with all vehicles. Reuser explains how he got into Autoshop.

“I’ve always really liked fast cars. And then the more I actually like looked into the automotive world and like what people do with their cars I got interested in auto shop, because it’s about like actual maintenance. I got really interested in that, because I’m into modifying cars rather than just buying fast cars. So I figured I needed to have the basics down before I could actually modify a car,” said Reuser.

Though one can learn enough technical methods to never need to step into a jiffy lube again, one of the primary focuses of the class is employability. A key part of employability is being timely.

“I’d say the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this class is to just show up on time and do the best you can. The idea behind this class is employability,” said Reuser.

Not to mention, the safe use of shop equipment and tools is another fundamental aspect of the class. Safety procedures are handled by teacher Jim Rolle, a history teacher by trade. He explains how he started teaching the auto program.

“[Casa] was hiring a new shop teacher when Mr. Billing [previous auto teacher] retired. And I was pretty interested in the job, I used to sub auto shop a lot back when I was a sub. And I was looking for a change of pace from my old school. I had an interview with Mr. Backman, and he offered me the job. I was already a teacher, then in my previous life, I was a mechanic. And the idea of bringing the two together was really appealing to me. I really liked the idea of being out in the shop environment, being out of the classroom,” said Rolle.

In his eleven years of teaching, running the auto shop is hands down the best job he has ever had, says Rolle. When asked, being “out in the elements” with his students is Rolle’s favorite part of his job. He describes how interacting with his kids every day is a bonding experience, but also a danger. When asked the biggest challenge he faces, he explains:

“The fact that it’s a different classroom setting, a different way of teaching. And so having a challenge of 30 students, 33 students, in most cases outside in the shop environment, there’s a pretty big danger factor, a pretty big chance of someone getting hurt, hopefully not too bad. A constant concern is safety and being safe and acting safe. So keeping an eye on 33 students while trying to teach 33 students is probably the biggest challenge.”

Overall, Rolle is proud of the program, and is excited to see it grow. One of his hopes for the future is for more girls to become involved with auto shop. Auto is a program that many of his students can create a career out of, and many have. The skills students learn can be used in a variety of careers.

In a parting note, Rolle addresses the student body and encourages them to take auto-shop:

“I’m really proud of all my students. I think we have a very good student body here. And for students that might be reading this or those that didn’t know we had an auto program, I encourage you to come by someday at lunch or office hours. Check us out, check out some of the cars are working on, check out the electric car the students are working on and just see what we’re about. We’ve had so much support from admin. and other outside sources that we’ve been able to really refresh the shop with new tools and new technology. I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished in the last four years,” said Rolle.

If you seek to educate yourself on the mechanism of the vehicle you drive daily, immerse yourself in the productive, ingenuitive nature of the Gaucho Garage, where you are sure to be inspired.