Jason Rehel, centre, with some of his prized St. Brother André High School students at the Toronto Automotive Technology Competition. The team of Sam Luff and Vincent Servinis, right, placed first, with classmates Ethan Chong and Alessandro Albi second. Photo courtesy Jason Rehel

Auto shop teacher helps put students in fast lane

By 
  • May 11, 2019

Jason Rehel wanted his automotive technology classes to be a breath of fresh air from the busyness of school. When students are working in the shop, visitors would come and go, and music would sometimes be playing in the background.

“It’s been a relief from the day,” said Grade 12 student Sam Luff. “You do all your hard classes and then you just get to go have fun and do something you actually like in the shop.”

Unlike most high schools, auto shop classes can be taken from Grade 9 to 12 at St. Brother André Catholic High School, which has led to the Markham, Ont., high school dominating skills competitions the past few years.

Most recently, Luff and his Grade 12 teammate Vincent Servinis placed 12th in the National Automotive Technology Competition on April 22-24 in New York City. Luff and Servinis, along with another team, also competed in the Toronto Automotive Technology Competition Feb. 13 in which they won first place against 17 other high school teams. Their classmates, Ethan Chong and Alessandro Albi, finished in second place. This is the third year in a row that the school has won the Toronto competition to earn trips to the New York competition.

“We are all excited as a school for these two young men,” said Rehel. “It’s definitely a community effort. We have alumni helping out all the time and all three years, it’s been all hands on deck.”

Rehel has been teaching automotive technology at Brother André for 10 years.

“It’s been a great reward for me to see them fulfill their dreams,” said Rehel. “I have seen many students go on into mechanical engineering, automotive engineering and even aviation engineering. They get hands-on skills here that they are using in their jobs and in their programs at university.”

Rehel said that these competitions are an important part of his students’ education because they motivate them to sharpen their skills. Bringing in mentors and alumni are also part of that motivation because it shows current students the kind of future they can have. It takes a village to groom the next generation in automotive technology, he said.

When competition season rolls around, he often sees his former students come back to the auto shop to mentor and share their experiences.

Michael Lamanna took Rehel’s class in Grades 10-12. He and his teammate placed first in the Toronto Automotive Technology Competition in 2017 and went on to compete in New York that same year.

He has just finished his second year in automotive engineering at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa and is currently working in a co-op placement at its ACE Climatic Wind Tunnel.

“Only five years ago, when I joined Mr. Rehel’s Grade 10 class, I had barely ever pumped a car tire before. That says a lot about all Mr. Rehel has to offer, not only technically but also in the passion he shares for cars as well,” said Lamanna, 20. “If it wasn’t for him, I would not be so involved and passionate about engineering as I am today.”

Even with his full schedule, he likes to visit Rehel and his auto shop class at least once a month.

David Vecchiarelli is another former student who helps current students prepare for competition. Vecchiarelli first took auto classes with Rehel in Grade 9 in 2014. Since then, he has gone on to study automotive engineering at the Ontario Tech University.

“Despite already graduating, I continue to learn from Mr. Rehel and visit the auto shop often,” said the 19-year-old.

“Speaking with current students and sharing my knowledge with them about my experiences is the most amazing thing. To see current students with the same spark and passion that I possess for the automotive world is something that I hope continues for a very long time.”

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