Tech Center alumni teach to give back to program that gave so much to them

The Technical and Career Education Center (TCEC), also known as the Tech Center, is home to a host of trade and industry programs.

Charlie McDaniel was here for TCEC’s 1972 opening.

“I don’t remember that specific first day,” McDaniel recalled, “but I do remember that I was excited to be here. Students who come here are excited because it’s hands on and they see results of what they are doing.”

There are 22 technical programs of study offered, some of which include automotive service technology; cosmetology; landscape design and management; licensed practical nursing; public safety; culinary arts; early childhood education; dental assisting; and construction technology, which is comprised of carpentry, electricity, masonry and plumbing and heating. According to the TCEC, these careers have earning potential anywhere from $30,000 to $70,000 per year, often straight out of high school.

The teachers who attended this specialty center represent the division’s various high schools:

  • Jimmy Bruce, Bayside High School Class of 1986, now teaches automotive service technology;
  • Joanna Marhalik, Princess Anne High School, Class of 2001, now teaches cosmetology;
  • Charlie McDaniel, Bayside High School, Class of 1974, now teaches masonry;
  • Daniel Ramos, Tallwood High School, Class of 2001, now teaches plumbing and heating;
  • Darlene Reynard, First Colonial High School, Class of 1976, now teaches cosmetology;
  • Joseph Santos, Kempsville High School, Class of 1984, now teaches welding; and
  • Tony Wilson, Green Run High School, Class of 1990, is one of the auto body and paint technology instructors.

“I have a pretty good understanding of what their day is like,” said Bruce, who spent 20-plus years as an automotive technician. “I understand that some of these students are not going off to college and they need something that will make them productive members of society, and this will provide for them. “It’s been good for me. It’s been good for a lot of our students.”

Giving back is the same reason Marhalik, who is in her first year of teaching, switched careers after 17 years in cosmetology.

“I always kind of thought I wanted to teach,” she stated. “As a student I thought that would be really neat, but I never thought about it as a possibility. It’s one of those unreachable kind of things because there’s only three teachers.”

Instead, she did the next best thing – volunteered for a few years. Then, an instructor unexpectedly retired. “I love it and plan on being here for the next 30 years.”

Across the hallway is her former cosmetology teacher, Darlene Reynard.

“I always came back to visit my instructors because they made an impression on my life.”

Reynard not only teaches, but is one of the center’s advisers for SkillsUSA, a nationwide organization founded to foster a skilled workforce. It hosts numerous regional, state and national competitions and Virginia Beach students have won several titles.

“My teachers taught me about SkillsUSA and how to be a leader. They helped me find my first job and that made a big impact.”

Ocean Lakes High School student Nick Bingham shared that many Tech Center teachers have years of experience in the private sector and have helped students land jobs.

“If we put down [McDaniel’s] name for a recommendation, he is a credible source. Mr. McDaniel has real-world connections. He had a business, too.”

Air conditioning, refrigeration and heating instructor Daniel Ramos remembers that TCEC also helped him get his start.

“I got a job as a senior while in the program,” he stated. “Several of us started working as seniors.”

But it’s not easy making a leap into teaching for those who have found security in private industry.

“[Teaching] is the last thing I would’ve thought of,” according to welding instructor Santos, now in his third year teaching. But he soon realized he could make a difference.

“My biggest gift that I can give students is to give them a trade. I tell my students ‘You’re in Tidewater – home of the largest naval installation in the world. If you can weld, you don’t have to worry about work.”’

McDaniel agreed.

“The only way that you are going to be successful is to either go to college or have a good trade where you can market yourself. You need a skill that will pay the bill.”

Learn more about the TCEC by visiting their website at techcenter.vbschools.com.

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One thought on “Tech Center alumni teach to give back to program that gave so much to them

  1. Yes, we need people with these important skills and instructors who want to teach them. So glad to see a renewed interest in the skilled trades.

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