By Freddy Monares
Looking forward to the title “retired,” department chair of Automobile Technology Walter Kangas is prepared to live on his lake-front property in Florida after his last day at East Los Angeles College on June 30.
Kangas has been with ELAC since Aug. 2001 and says his biggest accomplishment for the college is getting the department certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) in 2003.
This program certifies that when a student graduates from the courses taken at ELAC, their degree is recognized throughout the country. Another highlight of his career is bringing the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification testing to the college.
The ASE certification allows service technicians to apply for automotive industry-related work. Last semester was the first time the test was administered at the college, and 86 out of the 88 students that took the test passed. Next semester, the Vocational and Technical Education Act (VTEA) survey will allow the department $450 for students that want to take the test but can’t afford it.
On Apr. 20 Kangas took 12 students to get certified by the Honda Express Technician program. Four of the students passed and are now eligible to work for Honda Motors. “It’s amazing how many students find a job coming out of the program,” Kangas said.
Kangas added that the most rewarding part of his job is finding out how many students become successful in the industry. Although looking forward to retirement, Kangas says that he will miss coming up with new ideas for the department.
Kangas made the decision to extend the duration of each class in the auto-tech department to get students accustomed to a regular work day.“It’s unbelievable how many decisions you have to make when you retire,” Kangas said.
Kangas explained that every decision made when retiring is crucial. “It’s harder to apply for retirement than it is to apply for a job,” Kangas said. “My teaching style was more to challenge the students,” Kangas said.
Kangas taught students what they needed to learn and then set them free in the labs to figure out problems on their own. “They learn what they need to know without wasting time in the classroom,” Kangas said.
Kangas said that he is looking forward to spending time fixing up his lake-front property in Florida with his wife, as well as being able to barbecue and spend time with his brothers and sisters. “The best thing I found out about this college is the students,” Kangas said.
He said students at ELAC are sociable, funny and easy to get along with and have made his years at ELAC enjoyable.