Incentive Can Be Everything

Erik Schachterle
Automotive Technologies

I had been teaching high school for several years when I began to question if it was the best profession for me. School had started again. I covered all the basic automotive information as usual. I tried to be excited about the material, but I was as bored as my class seemed to be.

One day after class, a student approached me. AJ always hid in the back of the room with his head down. He had decent test scores and an overall B- grade. AJ very abruptly said, “I need to do better in class.” He then told me that his girlfriend was pregnant and when he told his parents they kicked him out. He said he wanted to be responsible and didn’t want to drop out of school. “What do I need to do to get a good job?” he asked.

I told him our brakes section would begin soon and this would be his opportunity to earn a state license. He said “That’s not soon enough, what can I do now?” I had never witnessed a student demonstrate such initiative, it had shocked me. He said, “Can I retake any quizzes? I know I can get a better grade.” I allowed it and we scheduled retakes starting the following day. He scored exceptionally well on his retakes and his grade jumped from a B- to an A-. The following marking period he started to become a leader in the classroom. He volunteered for customer work and helped others complete their assignments.

Soon after, I was in a local automotive parts store and saw a posting for an evening position. I shared the information with AJ. He applied for the position and was hired immediately. He began working full time in addition to attending school. I expected his grades would fall, but he impressively balanced his work and school responsibilities.

AJ passed the state test. He was upset by his score, I assured him a pass is a pass and that was all he needed. He took his license to work and immediately received a raise.

I still see AJ occasionally. He used to thank me for the support I’d given him every time we’d run into each other. But now we just shake hands and catch up. He is now the manager of the same parts store and has a beautiful little girl nicknamed “Bean”.  Goes to show that incentive can be everything.