Each year, Brian Gay stands in front of his automotive technology class at the beginning of each semester and tells them that he’s still not sure he wants to teach. Even after eight years.
He talks about a red Snap-On mechanic’s toolbox thats the size of two fridges inside his garage at home, filled with all sorts of wrenches, lug nuts and electromagnetic readers. The toolbox, which is all Gay would need to land a job, is ready at any moment to be wheeled into a shop of his choice.
“Job security,” Gay calls it.
Eight years ago, Gay left a master technician job that paid six figures at Baron BMW in favor of a teaching job at a community college that paid a third of his old salary.
“It was boring,” Gay said. “Every day I would show up to the shop, line up the set of tools I would need to finish a job, imagine how I was going to do it, and then eight hours later I would be driving home to my wife. I wanted more excitement. Every day is something different with students.”
In a little corner in room 101 next to a lift that has his atomic-yellow Porsche race car resting six feet above the shop floor, he has five wooden desks littered with engine parts ranging from superchargers to turbos to spare seized pistons laying around, with 20 metal stools. Car magazines sit neatly stacked near a window, with diagrams of a Ford electrical unit on the walls. Pictures of his favorite race cars litter the walls of the room. A red line of tape divides the class from the shop.
The kids that sit in the classroom day to day are what keep Brian Gay teaching at East.
“I never know what to expect from these kids. I’ve gotten to meet some of the coolest kids ever. At my old job, I knew exactly what I would do when working on a car. Now, when teaching in a classroom I get to see all different types of responses and ideas about cars.”
Now, Gay resides in the basement, surrounded by a variety of cars ranging from a white Porsche 991 GT3 donned in red and blue racing stripes to his very own Volkswagen Microbus. He teaches four auto classes, ranging from the entry level auto essentials where students learn about the basics of the automotive world to auto 4. Auto 4 is a senior only class where they work on actual race cars in order to gain experience in the automotive field.
To sophomore Ian Estes and other students, Gay’s shop class is more than learning about cars.
“Gay is easily the best teacher I’ve ever had,” said sophomore Ian Estes. “It’s almost like he’s not a teacher, but just some guy that opened a business in the basement. Auto is honestly like heaven for me.”
To sophomore Ian Armstrong, auto is the equivalent of an after school club more than an elective.
“I’m pretty into cars,” said Ian Armstrong, “In auto, I can work on my car on an actual lift and use professional tools, too. Not to mention the fact I can also learn and talk about cars all hour, it truly is a bright spot in my day.”
“My wife basically told me how much of an idiot I was for not realizing that I spent all this time in the business field and didn’t even realize that I wanted to be a mechanic,” said Gay. “Thankfully it worked out for me in the long run.”