By Cindy Zomar, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Students electing the Auto Technology program at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High (AVRTH) may have always had an interest in cars, or they might just have been drawn by the natural showmanship of their instructor, Dan Capuano.
“This is my stage,” Capuano said. “I tell these kids that they will learn a bit about HVAC, plumbing, electrical, metal fabrication, auto collision, computer information technology and precision machining, because a vehicle has so many systems in it. This is a shop that encompasses many other technical areas, so it’s not going to be an easy ride.”
Capuano shared that Auto Technology is getting top numbers in the program placement quests these days, keeping he and fellow instructor Mark Chiaravalloti running at full speed.
“We’ve had no one transfer to another program in the four years I’ve been here,” he noted.
A self-proclaimed “car guy,” Capuano had no problem choosing a career path. He attended Quinsigamond Community College as part of the Ford ASSET program (Automotive Student Service Educational Training), a two-year program that leads to an associate’s degree in applied science in automotive technology. He worked as a dealership technician, moving his way up to shop foreman, until the recession of 2008 forced many dealerships out of business. Undaunted, Capuano opened his own shop, Putnam Lane Auto Repair in Worcester, which he successfully ran for almost 10 years.
“One of my employees was a co-op high school student and seeing his curiosity about learning more really sparked my interest in teaching,” Capuano recalled. “To be honest, like my college professor, I knew that someday I would want to teach, but figured that would come much later.”
After a Program Advisory Committee meeting at the local high school, however, he thought it was time. He closed his shop and began teaching.
“I strive to teach these kids to be good citizens, teach them about building character, forming relationships, molding minds. I am the luckiest guy in the world, they pay me to fix cars all day and to work with kids,” he said.
His students will be able to support themselves as entry-level auto technicians.
“We also teach them the study skills necessary to succeed in college, and we give homework, too,” he laughed.
Students at Assabet take academic classes on alternating weeks with their technical program and graduate with both a high school diploma and a Certificate of Proficiency in their chosen field.
In his free time, Capuano has his own collection of five vehicles to keep him busy, ranging from a 1946 Jeep to a 2007 re-purposed police car, and a few motorcycles as well.
“I love the stories behind each of my cars,” he said. “I’ve actually written rough drafts for children’s books about them, I just need an illustrator.”
Capuano, who lives in Charlton with his wife and daughter, also wants to write a car-themed newspaper column, or perhaps host a cable show encompassing the world of car aficionados.
“I see art and beauty in a shiny chrome wrench and mid-century industrial design,” he said. “I have a passion for any machinery…and I love to cook, too.”