TSTC Automotive Technology Instructor Connects with Students on Their Level

(WACO) — Texas State Technical College recently welcomed its youngest instructor in the Automotive Technology department.

Matthew Abel, 26, a Waco native and Midway High School alumnus, graduated from TSTC in 2013 with an associate degree in Automotive Technology. He will teach the Automotive Brake Systems and Introduction to Automotive Technology classes starting this fall.  

He is determined to provide guidance and support for his students and lead them to success.

“The biggest thing I learned in the industry was that it’s so important to have someone to look up to,” said Abel. “Out in the industry, if I had something I couldn’t figure out, I couldn’t go to anyone. I had to just sit down and figure it out.”

Abel was fast-tracked to a master certification in less than a year while he was working at Allen Samuels Fiat in Waco. Spending most of his time working on brakes, he gained valuable experience. But he wanted more time with his fiancee and son.

“Getting on with TSTC has been amazing,” said Abel. “I love how everybody wants to progress in a positive manner. Everyone is crazy nice, and if I have an idea, they hear me out even though I’m the new guy.”

Mentoring Abel as he transitions from a teaching assistant to instructor are TSTC Automotive Technology statewide lead Rudy Cervantez and instructor Richard Pickens.

“I found by having him as a lab assistant this past semester in the brakes class, he knows quite a bit about the new technologies that we older generation instructors lack,” Cervantez said. “He brings in new and improved ideas to our department.”

One of the biggest surprises for Abel was how positively his students responded to a younger instructor.

“It was kind of a shock,” Abel said. “They trust me with their questions, and they’ll come in after class for tutorials because I am seen as more of the buddy they can learn from rather than a teacher.”

Abel hopes to encourage students from all backgrounds to explore the automotive industry as a career opportunity.

“There are huge benefits, and (as a student) you don’t have to know anything when you come here. I had never touched a car before I came to TSTC,” Abel said. “By the time you get out of here though, you’ll be more confident and more prepared than most, with people ready to hire you on the spot.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate of automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow 6 percent through 2026, creating a need for qualified technicians.

“If anyone has an interest in the automotive field or if they think that they do, it’s a great field to go into because not everyone can work on their cars, so there will always be work,” Abel said.

In his short time at TSTC, Abel has been affectionately dubbed “The Rookie” and earned praise from his co-workers.

“He’s been a great help to the department and to the instructors,” Pickens said. “He’s a big family man and does everything with his son in mind, so he makes sure it’s done right.”

Looking to the future, Abel sees great opportunities for the department and himself.

“I like the direction we’re going. The instructors have become friends, and my fiancee is happy and loves that I’m out here. I definitely see myself staying here and growing,” Abel said.

Abel started in spring 2018 as a teaching lab assistant for the Automotive Brake Systems class, which he continues to teach this summer. He is also the department’s safety officer.

Registration for fall classes at TSTC is underway.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.