What It Means To Educate The Future

AE Education

We all have many things in our lives that happen for one reason or another. Some of the greatest and most memorable moments of my life involve both my family and my career. In terms of my career the greatest times have included the first day of teaching a college class I worked so hard to create, watching as some of my students move on and excel in the industry, my election to the InfoComm Certification Steering Committee, receiving the 2015 InfoComm Young AV Professional award, and now being named the 2016 InfoComm Educator of the Year award.

The creation of a college level class on audiovisual system design has been by far the most rewarding venture I have undertaken in my 14 years in this industry. While in development I learned much about myself and I was able to build rewarding friendships with my mentors and other industry leaders including David McNutt, Bill Nattress, Jeff Lipp, Jay McArdle and Chuck Espinoza just to name a few.  These individuals are the reason I was able to create the class that I did. Without their support and expertise, I would have never been able to accomplish what I thought at the time was the impossible. I was able to corner each one of them and ask for a few minutes of their time.  I was going for the “free consulting” in order to better the industry. Little did I know they would each play a vital role and continue to do so years later as guest lecturers.  All of this lead to the first day which Mr. Nattress warned me about saying “No matter how much you think you know or how prepared you think you are; you will find yourself standing in front of the class terrified on that first day.  Whatever you do, don’t let it show as those kids will eat you alive.” I thought to myself, I have taught for InfoComm for a few years to rooms of 50-100 people, I’ll be fine. I was so wrong and he was so right.  It was terrifying. However, once I made it past that first hour it was all downhill. Now my class has moved on and is being taught by other industry leaders such as John Lamberson at Biamp and Chris Kusek at All Pro Sound.  On top of that I will be talking to over 40 other colleges from across the country at the Infocomm Show this year and how they can institute similar curriculum at their universities.

Secondarily and as a direct result of the creation of this class I have had the luxury of teaching and working with the next generation of industry leaders.  I have had students that have been recipients of the ICIF Grant Program and others that have found their place in the industry and moved onto rewarding careers in design, acoustics, and control system programming. One of my best students, Victoria Barela, has now found her niche in the world of programming. I was fortunate enough to work beside her at Zdi and am proud to see her move her career path forward. She is not only now working alongside other mentors such as Hope Roth but she is a fellow contributor to rAVe. Her latest blog, Shake Hands and Share Resources, describes the importance of networking and I recommend that everyone follow her blogs. She will be an industry leader in the very near future and I will be proud to be able to say, “I had her in my class!”

Another meaningful accomplishment includes my election to the InfoComm Certification Steering Committee where I now sit as the chair.  Certification goes hand in hand with education.  In our industry, as we all know, the certifications to have are the CTS, CTS-I, and CTS-D. I believe that in order for the industry as a whole to move forward we must always better ourselves and give back to inspire the next generation.  We can all do this by staying certified and giving back through volunteering or mentoring others.  For these reasons I ran for this position and was fortunate enough to be elected by all of you, my fellow CTS holders, and I cannot thank you enough.

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Last year I was fortunate enough to receive the Young AV Professional Award.  This was something I was surprised by as I know there were so many other qualified nominees. I was honored to be nominated by my boss and mentor Jay McArdle. The award was a great recognition of the many things I was trying to accomplish in the industry and in my career at Zdi. I was fortunate enough this year to now receive the 2016 Educator of the Year award. This recognition means more to me than anyone could possibly imagine.  It’s a representation of all the hard work and dedication I have poured into educating our industry. It is also an elite club with other members including my friends and mentors Joe Cornwall, Bill Nattress, Mario Maltese, Paul Zielie and Paul Depperschmidt just to name a few.  Just six years ago I would have never imagined I would join the ranks of these individuals and be as involved as I am.

Being a new contributor to rAVe and the world of writing blogs, I often think to myself, “What should I write about?” or “Who the hell wants to listen to anything I have to say?” I wrote my first blog on the evolution of education in our industry and I wanted to keep a similar theme going forward. At the encouragement of my friend and fellow blogger Corey Moss, I wanted to write about what has led to this and what it has meant to me to receive such honors recently in back to back years.  Well to be honest, there are no words that can describe how much this means. I can tell you all that it is beyond humbling. To be recognized by colleagues for simply sharing my passion is truly and honor. The privilege of being in such company as the other extraordinary educators cannot be described in words. In an industry where so many people go above and beyond their jobs and careers to further themselves and others, it’s difficult for me to think that what one person does can be set apart from all the others. I am grateful to be a recipient of such a prestigious award this year and last. I only hope that I can continue to achieve excellence in education, something that I will continue to strive for.

I think what makes a successful educator is not just the ability to pass on knowledge but the ability to inspire the learner to ask questions and find the desire to better themselves and others. I would like to thank those who support all of us out there on the front lines pushing for the betterment of education and certifications within our industry.

I will however leave all of you with a challenge.  Become involved. It’s a simple task with great rewards. Kelly Perkins (and this year’s Young AV Professional Award recipient) recently wrote a great article entitle We Kinda Suck At Marketing Ourselves and its true, we can no longer use the lack of education as an excuse.  We must all teach.  If not at a high school or college, then within our own organizations. Help better those around you so that we can all excel and become great at what we do. Mentor those around us. Start an internship program. Join the call for presenters and teach at the InfoComm show. Don’t be afraid to share your own wealth of knowledge with others as it can be rewarding in more ways than you can ever imagine. There are many people out there that know me from so many years ago. They will all tell you that with my fear of public speaking and knowing me as well as they did, they would have never believed I would be teaching at the college level or to 50 colleagues looking to achieve their CTS.

Step out of your comfort zone and together we can all make a difference. [Mic Drop]