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From Car Enthusiast to Enthusiastic Educator

For many car enthusiasts, their passion begins by seeing a great example of automotive excellence on the big – or small - screen. From James Bond’s Aston Martin to Marty McFly’s Delorian to the perceptive K.I.T.T. fighting crime with David Hasselhoff, media vehicles have inspired people worldwide to learn how to modify or maintain their own cars and trucks. 

Blackhawk Technical College automotive instructor Corey Groebner is no exception. For him, it was the 1977 black and gold Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit. “That is where my love of cars came from,” Corey explained. “I have always had a passion for cars, and fixing or improving them seemed like a natural fit for me.” 

Once a BTC student himself, Corey is thrilled to now be a part of the faculty. He’s incredibly impressed with the evolution and changes in the programs. “The students now have the freedom to learn on their schedule and pace. It is no longer a requirement to be here all day. Our program now is more tailored to the individual and their capability versus a whole group or class.”

Along with the enhanced flexibility, Corey appreciates the culture that BTC has created. The knowledgeable team at Blackhawk is dedicated to providing opportunities for students allowing them to schedule learning when they can and set realistic expectations by facilitating personal and professional growth. 

The pandemic has forced the automotive program, like many others, to adapt. Most people in the automotive program are hands-on learners. Social distancing has forced students to abandon the traditional practice of gathering around a car and inspecting an engine. The department has had to bring more hands on to our students virtually.

Now, students can be anywhere but still engage with the learning in the shop. This has created some authentic learning experiences. As with most lab classes, the auto demonstrations are highly controlled, and instructors have set them up numerous times and performed them flawlessly for students. But Corey found himself doing a demo live via Zoom that didn’t go as expected.

“In one of my first virtual class sessions,” he explained, “I was using a cordless impact driver to remove a Torx bolt and stripped the head of the bolt. My class went crazy about that; they asked me what I was going to do and how to fix it. I explained to them the experience. I went over to the toolbox and grabbed a couple of different tools to remove the bolt, which provoked a lot of discussion. So even though not one student was physically with me, they all were there in that moment learning how to handle that situation.”

This virtual component has also opened the door to have students demonstrate competencies on vehicles they might be working on at home. They connect with Corey remotely, and he can assess their work and give feedback in real-time. 

BTC Automotive students are often highly sought after for jobs in our community before they complete the program. Industry contacts and employment recruiters reach out regularly looking to connect with students; knowing that a BTC student will have the training and knowledge necessary to do a great job.

For those considering starting or coming back to school, Corey encourages folks to “Take that chance on yourself. Truly find what you what to do and go after it. The automotive industry is growing at a record pace, and the opportunity for qualified technicians is huge.”

Despite the current challenges, Blackhawk still offers two things that all students are looking for: experience and opportunity.

“We have a lot of talent and expertise across our campuses,” Corey said. “I am very confident if I wanted to change my career path and become a chef or a nurse, I would succeed because of the great support and staff at the college.”

“Blackhawk Technical College was my starting point,” Corey says, “and I truly feel whatever path you want to take in life, Blackhawk Technical College can start you on that journey.