Despite his surroundings – a white Chevy on a vehicle lift, mechanics busy underneath, the sounds of drills and air pumps filling the air – David Almanzan is not overseeing just any typical mechanical shop.
The mechanics are actually high school students, this shop is a part of the Automotive Technology Program at Dekaney High School, and Almanzan is their instructor.
“I grew up in the automotive industry. My whole family, both sides, has always been involved,” Almanzan said. “But one thing I’ll never forget, at around 13 years old, I told my parents I would never be a mechanic because I never wanted to be around cars. Now, my mom reminds me of that every single day.”
But eventually, that family love of cars caught up with Almanzan. He found himself working as a general manager at an automotive shop where he then discovered his love for teaching.
“It was never in my goals to become an instructor. But I noticed that I enjoyed explaining how systems function and talking to customers,” he said. “It felt good showing someone how their vehicle worked, so they understood what they were paying for.”
After a stint teaching at a local community college, he was brought on at Dekaney to jumpstart the automotive program in 2017.
“This is different because I get to make an impact on someone younger, when they’re a sponge, when they are looking to get more information,” Almanzan said. “You can show them the good, the bad, and they can take it from there.”
When he started at Dekaney, the program was little more than a set of books, some tools, and students working on cars in the parking lot. But when the district approved the construction of the school’s 9th grade center, the opportunity came to build a facility from the ground up and Almanzan was instrumental in its design.
Now, Almanzan can add something new to his resume: reality show competitor. Last year, he auditioned for and was cast in the US Auto Tech National Championship. After making it through several rounds of trials against hundreds of hopefuls, he was put in the top five to compete on television.
For Almanzan, competing on the show was less about proving himself and more about sending a message to his students.
“I feel like our students look up to us,” he said. “I wanted to show them that no matter if you win or lose, there’s always a lesson to be learned, an opportunity to learn something.”
Though he may have bragging rights and a national spotlight now, Almanzan is still dedicated to the students at Dekaney and the program he helped build there.
“Here you get to have an opportunity every single day to either impact someone or teach them something new that they’re not going to forget,” he said. “That’s priceless to me.”
The US Auto Tech National Championship will air on Sunday, Feb. 6. Tune in to FS2 (Fox Sports 2). It will air twice, first at 9 a.m. and again at 7 p.m. More information can be found at Facebook.com/USAutoTechNationals.