Ted, 63, from St. Louis, Missouri, is an HVAC Instructor at The Refrigeration School. Ted rejoined the school as an instructor about three months ago, having taught here previously in 1995/1996. Ted currently teaches the Refrigeration Systems & Practices phase to afternoon and night-class students taking the Refrigeration Technologies and the Electro-Mechanical Technologies programs.
Thanks for your time, Ted, and welcome back! How long have you been in the HVAC field?
Since I graduated from Ranken Technical College in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1991. I’ve worked on residential heating and cooling since then. I had my own little company in St. Louis when I was green and starting out.
What brought you to Arizona?
Actually, I’m also a musician. In 1994 I was hired to play in Sedona. The guy flew us out and when I looked at a newspaper and saw all the A/C jobs advertised, I said, “After this gig is over, I’m loading up and moving to Phoenix.” I’ve been here ever since! My last job was with Moore Air, LLC. Moore Air is owned by a gentleman who came through RSI in the mid-90s, and I taught him. He opened up his own company in 2007 and has allowed me to work with him throughout the years.
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Is music what you did for a living before going to HVAC school?
Yes, I was about 32 or 33 when I went to HVAC school. I went into the U.S. Navy for a couple of years post-Vietnam, not long after high school. That was 1975. Then after that I tried to earn my living as a musician. But it didn’t pay well and didn’t pan out. So I just reduced it to a hobby not a career.
What kind of music do you play?
I play jazz and old school R&B. I play keyboards, bass, and drums, and I’m a vocalist.
That’s awesome. When you were a kid, is a musician what you wanted to be when you grew up?
I’ll be honest with you, I wanted to be the next Michael Jackson! I never had HVAC in mind until I went to school in ’91. I chose this trade when I figured out that HVAC is three trades in one. You get some electrical, plumbing—you have to pipe the refrigerant to and from the system—and refrigeration, the mechanical part of it.
Why did you decide to get back into teaching last year?
Working outside and in attics in residential and commercial HVAC here in the valley is a young man’s trade. I left RSI back in the 90s because I was still young. The field was calling me back. I could make more money working it than teaching it. But the last few years had been hard working in the heat now that I’m a little older. The time was right to get out of the heat and take it a little easier. I enjoy working in air conditioning now, rather than fixing air conditioning!
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I enjoy sharing the information I’ve learned through my experience, and some tricks of the trade. I also enjoy seeing the light in the students’ eyes when they finally get it. That’s satisfying! I really like seeing students get what I’m telling them, then get out there, get a job, and use what I’ve shared. Then if they call back and say, “Hey, man, you really helped me!”, that’s really satisfying.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you?
Probably how much I love music. They have a picture and a short bio on the wall here at RSI and that does say something about the music. But they probably don’t know how much I love it, that I’ve been overseas playing music, and how I can still make money at it! But something that they won’t know about me is that I’m still fairly athletic, and I’ve got 15 grandkids!
Wow! Tell us a little more about that huge family.
Well, My wife Delacie and I have been married a long time. We’ve shared a lifetime. We have four grown children and they have given us 15 grandkids.
If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Well, I’m going to have to say my father. He died in the 1980s, and you know how father and son relationships can go. When you’re young, you think your father is the greatest in the world, then when you’re a teenager, you think your dad knows nothing. Then you get older, and you figure out how much your dad really does know. But things happen, and I didn’t get to tell him the things I wanted to before he died. So. I’d like to do that if I had the chance. He left some money that put me through HVAC school and that gave me this trade. I’d want to tell him how important that was for me, and how much I loved that.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to new students considering RSI?
Listen to your instructors and pay attention. The core material, the curriculum, is really good. I have to say it’s better than it was when I was teaching here 27 years ago. The school was owned by someone else then! It’s so hands-on, but there’s a lot to learn. It might seem overwhelming in the middle. You might find yourself thinking, “How am I going to learn this?”, but just hang in there and come talk to me if you get discouraged. Just hang in there. There is light end of the tunnel. It’s worth it.
What was your favorite part of your time in the field?
This is a really rewarding trade. Like I said before, it’s three trades in one. It’s rewarding because most of the time people are in trouble when we arrive. Just the look on their face when we fix something and leave them satisfied. I really liked that, and I got paid for it! If you do the right thing, if you’re ethical, you will have repeat customers. Taking care of somebody’s AC unit year after year is a relationship that you can’t trade. Establish that relationship, and you’ll be able to sell them a unit when theirs breaks down. The AC unit is the most important appliance in the valley. People don’t think that. If you pay attention to each customer and take care of their unit like it’s your own, then you’ll have a meaningful, prosperous career in this trade.
What was your favorite tool in the field?
It’s going to be a fan blade puller. You’d be surprised. That tool got me out of so much trouble. You’ve got to have one. The fan blades kind of get stuck on the shaft there, almost welded on. If you’re out in the heat and you’ve got to take off a fan blade off a motor, you’ve got to have one. It saves a lot of time.
You get an unexpected afternoon to yourself, what would you do with that time?
I’m still affiliated with Moore Air, the company I was with before I came back. I was their number two guy. If I got an afternoon off unexpectedly, I’d probably go help or train some of their employees. It’s a surprise day off so the grandkids would be in school; I’d just jump back to where I was before to try to help out.
If you were to tell someone “thank you” for making you the person you are today, who would it be?
This would go back to my father. He educated me when I didn’t want to accept the information. He loved me and made me who I am because he didn’t force it; he just let me make my own mistakes and realize where I was going. I messed up a lot with him and he stood fast to what he was going to do, and he helped me out. Then he died and I never got a chance to tell him any of that. He’s responsible for me being the man I am today.