Fairfax County Auto Tech Instructors Share a Love of Teaching

Their high-quality-tuned friendship was geared for results. When sophomore Dominic Prakash and freshman David Plum turned close friends all through vehicle mechanics classes at Reston’s South Lakes High College 40 decades in the past, they had no inkling of what the future held. But today, the two are still aspect by facet, teaching car technological know-how in adjoining school rooms at Lake Braddock Secondary Faculty in Burke.

“Nobody would have looked at the two of us in large faculty and set us jointly,” Prakash claims.

Back again in those early days, both boys exhibited an aptitude and fascination in mechanics, however each figured out in his personal way. Prakash was determined as a gifted pupil. Plum has dyslexia.

“My toughness is in the shop — I like being hands-on,” Plum says. “That’s how I was, and the greater part of my pupils are going to discover executing it, not looking through about it.”

Prakash agrees that youngsters find out from palms-on knowledge. “I feel we each prosper on our curiosity of how items do the job and our organic mechanical skill,” he states. “We enhance each and every other, ever due to the fact substantial school.”

Extended Warranty Friendship

Prakash and Plum began their working professions alongside one another at a aspect job washing dishes at Amazing Fritzbe’s Flying Food Manufacturing facility in Reston, which was section of the Good American Restaurants chain in its early days. Prakash then graduated in 1985, inevitably becoming a mechanic at JKJ Chevrolet in Tysons. When Plum graduated the subsequent calendar year, he began function as an automobile mechanic at Fox Mill Exxon in Herndon. That stint would be temporary, nonetheless, as Plum quickly jumped ship to be part of Prakash.

“We followed each and every other from restaurants to auto dealers,” Plum claims. 

And so it went. The two worked alongside one another more than the yrs, transferring from dealership to dealership.

“We’ve been aside a couple situations, but it does not typically last,” Prakash states.

A radical go did occur during the mid-1990s, when Plum caught wind of an car technologies training job with Fairfax County General public Faculties. Plum was enticed by the benefits by itself.

“My father claimed, ‘It’s a one-yr deal if you go and you never like it, you’re out the subsequent year,’” Plum remembers. “That was 27 a long time in the past.” 

Plum started instructing at Lake Braddock at the beginning of the 1996 college calendar year. By no means much, Prakash aided him make worksheets and lesson plans following operate. Plum also recruited Prakash to drive an electric powered car or truck his learners created for a level of competition, an function that opened Prakash’s eyes to educating and becoming all over higher schoolers. 

“I liked doing the job with the little ones,” Prakash states. “It had some attractiveness.”

As luck would have it, in advance of the 1999 college year, one more automobile tech teacher at Plum’s university retired. The position opening grabbed Prakash’s focus. Prakash and Plum had been the moment once again reunited, this time in an vehicle tech classroom.

Prakash, still left, and Plum pose with a course in 2006. Picture courtesy Dominic Prakash

Shifting Gears

“We get the job done side by side — basically,” Prakash says. “I can throw items at him, and he can throw items at me at any time he would like.”

The duo has now taught in school rooms linked to the automobile store for 23 a long time, earning a stellar standing among the staff and college students in the system. 

“They definitely fortify each other,” Lake Braddock Principal Lindsey Kearns suggests. “It’s certainly normally a delight to go down there and interact and see what is heading on in their classroom.”

These times, Prakash teaches Automobile Tech I, although the two friends rotate in between Auto Tech II and III instruction, depending on enrollment. Surrounded by old autos on lifts, coveralls-clad learners in security goggles can’t assist but discover how shut the two academics are throughout classroom interactions.

“You can inform they’ve recognised every single other a genuinely long time,” claims senior Wesley Carlson. The 17-12 months-previous enrolled in Plum’s Vehicle Tech III course and hopes to analyze automotive technology at Penn State. “Their classes are additional than just operating on cars — it is also a ton of actually fantastic existence lessons they train you. This has been my most loved course in all of superior school.”

Echoing that sentiment, course of 2005 graduate Sean Bean referred to as the duo’s profound impact “the highlight” of his academic profession. 

“My junior and senior 12 months, I would have the [auto tech] class each working day,” says Bean. “I appeared ahead to likely to school each and every day for that course.” 

Bean took courses from Prakash and Plum for three years. Just after graduation and a subsequent associate diploma from Northern Virginia Group Faculty, he gained an internship with Fairfax H2o. He’s been employed there for 17 yrs now and at this time serves as the fleet supervisor overseeing 500 items of on- and off-road products. Bean even now credits his knowledge in classes with Prakash and Plum as a robust basis for his profession.

“They were mentors,” he states. “I definitely looked up to them a lot and realized a lot from them.” 

Picture courtesy Dominic Prakash

Pushed to Results

Maria Trester McCall very first realized that getting some automotive knowledge could be of use when she received a flat tire all through the summer immediately after her junior 12 months. The incoming senior made a decision to enroll in Prakash’s automotive tech class as a final result.

“It ended up remaining so considerably extra,” she suggests. When McCall’s 1983 Pontiac Firebird begun suffering from issues, Prakash informed her to bring it to school so he could present her how to deal with it. With the guidance of Plum and Prakash, McCall rebuilt her car’s transmission.

“They told me what I required to do and served me pull the transmission out,” she suggests. “I did all the labor and bought it jogging once more. It was a terrific perception of accomplishment.”

McCall went on to key in mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech and credits Prakash with fostering her tutorial interests. She ultimately applied her abilities to her profession at the New York–based Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory.

Photograph courtesy Fairfax County Community Colleges

Placing the Teaching Pedal to the Steel

Now, the Lake Braddock educating duo credits their properly-oiled friendship with establishing the school’s strong car tech system.

“We don’t argue we really do not fight,” Plum says. “We have incredibly identical mindsets on how matters should really be finished and the approach we have.”

With key demand for automotive professionals, the longtime good friends say they just can’t prepare long run mechanics quick ample. Students can receive Automotive Assistance Excellence certifications via their courses, enabling work in true mechanic retailers. To that end, Prakash and Plum employ a distinctive “no coddling” instructing style that resonates with teens. 

“It’s termed Real World 101,” Prakash claims. “Our pupils inform us, ‘You communicate to us and address us like no 1 else does.’” 

The adult men say they provide direction, but learners should choose initiative with a palms-on approach to studying. Centered on his individual life working experience, Plum connects with youth who obtain a conventional school placing complicated. This industry, he suggests, is a feasible and profitable job path learners may not be aware of. 

“I have better strengths with operating with kids that don’t want to be in school or are struggling to continue to be,” Plum claims.

Just as they did when the duo began instructing, pupils right now rave about Prakash and Plum. Learners say they provide a sense of empowerment to learning lots of realistic techniques, though infusing humor and fun into their lessons. And their high-mileage, 40-calendar year friendship evokes.

“I believe they’ll constantly be friends,” says freshman Andrew Downey.

“Till death do them part,” provides sophomore Oliver Crandol.

This tale originally ran in our March concern. For additional tales like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine.