GREENVILLE — Greenville High School (GHS) Career – Technology, Automotive Service Training Program Instructors Jim Anderson and Travis Nicholas have a story that has been unfolding for a long time.
Anderson is retiring in June, after 34 years. Nicholas, who graduated in 1990, was Anderson’s student.
“My whole life and my career started then,” Nicholas said. “My senior year, I had Mr. Anderson and he started my passion for this career. He really helped mold and guide me as a young man and became my mentor.”
Anderson helped Nicholas get a position at Hittle, in Greenville, where Nicholas co-oped his senior year. His grades improved and as one of the better students in the class, Nicholas really started taking ownership and liking the whole turning wrench thing, he said. Fast forward to 2006, Anderson recruited Nicholas as a GHS Career – Technology Automotive Instructor. And so the mentorship continued.
“If you would have told me, in in 1990, that i was going to be teaching 17 years later I would have called you a liar,” Nicholas said. “Mr. Anderson has meant so much to me as a teacher, back then learning about cars, and now learning how to teach and treat the students. The thing about Mr. Anderson – he doesn’t pull any punches. There are no bushes to go around. He just tells you how it is, what you have to do and that is his perspective on life. That ‘s how he has taught every kid that has come through here. I think he has changed the lives of a lot of students over the years and obviously mine too. I owe a lot to Mr. Anderson and I know a lot of the students that have come through this program feel the same. He loves the work – he is just a go – getter.”
Anderson said sometimes he is a little loud. He is also ready to belt out a hearty laugh and smile.
“If i think and know what is going to be best for my kids, I will defend them to the hilt,” he said. “I really will take care of them. But if they mess us up, I’m not afraid to jump in their crap either.”
Anderson’s chalk board has a quote on it that he said the students laugh about. “Who are you? Make it happen. Watch it happen. Wonder what happened.” When he is in a good mood, he turns on the song “Who Are You?” by The Who, to motivate the students. But the questions are impactful to Anderson. He wants to get the wheels turning in the students.
“Who are you as a person?,” he asked. “Are you somebody that is going to make it happen in your life – to take ownership of your life and move on? What are you going to get out of your education? Are you going to be a leader, or are you going to watch it happen? Are you a follower? Are you going to be one of those people who are not paying attention and wonder what the heck happened? That can change, but who are you today? Where is your state of mind today?”
Junior Automotive Service Training Program student Austin Lacy said Anderson is a good teacher with his own outgoing way of doing things.
“He wants us to work and he wants us to do well,” Lacy said. “He definitely tries to make this program better than what it is already.”
While the Automotive Service Training Program at GHS has produced some real stars, Anderson said there are also kids who have struggled, went out into the world and are successful contributors to society.
“This isn’t always about the best,” he said. “Everyone is capable in my opinion. We aren’t all built from the same mold. Some people can learn it quicker and for others, it takes them awhile to get it. Sometimes you talk to students a few years after they have graduated and they finally got it – it just happens. As long as they are working and being productive in a positive way – that matters.”
The near-future plans for Anderson is enjoying northern Michigan with his wife, Jeannie, his children and grandchildren. They have a boat, a couple jet skis and they rent a cottage. As for the future of the GHS Career – Tech Automotive Service Training Program, Anderson has no worries.
This program will run without Jim Anderson,” he said. “It is probably one of the best in the nation, because of the academic integration, the project-based learning, the community support, a very active advisory committee and the supportive school system. I just want to sail off into the sunset and know, in my heart, that I gave it 100 percent.