Monday, 14 September 2020 19:07

Alfred State Instructor Shifts from Improving Vehicles to Enhancing Students’ Futures

Alfred State instructor CJ Tremper brings years of real-world knowledge and experience to the classroom and labs. Alfred State instructor CJ Tremper brings years of real-world knowledge and experience to the classroom and labs. Alfred State photo


With years of real-world experience and an Alfred (NY) State education in his toolbox, automotive trades instructor CJ Tremper is now steering future auto body professionals toward the road to success.

Growing up in Avoca, NY, Tremper became interested in working on automobiles thanks to his dad, who taught shop class at Avoca Central School.


“He is a car guy and I was always helping him work on things when there was an opportunity,” Tremper said. “He taught me the basics of automotive repair and just how to fix things that were broken.”


Initially, Tremper was interested in becoming an automotive service technician, but an older friend who performed autobody work at the local BOCES changed his mind. At the time, Tremper was working at a local auto salvage yard, which bought and sold wrecked vehicles that could be fixed.


“I spent much of my time in high school fixing a totaled Chevy K5 Blazer that I bought from the salvage yard,” he said. “That was my first big autobody project and I enjoyed taking something that had been a complete wreck and making it roadworthy again.”


Tremper furthered his education and gained even more hands-on experience in Alfred State’s auto body repair program, which he graduated from in 1999. After earning his degree, Tremper worked in several collision shops through December 2005, developing his skills as an autobody technician and painter.


In January 2006, he transitioned into automotive restoration when he started working at RJ Cars in Arkport, NY.


“At the collision shops, I started out as a body man fixing dents and changing panels,” he said. “As I developed those skills, I also began to do some basic paint work. By the time I was ready to transition from auto collision to restoration, I was doing a lot of painting---probably about a 50-50 mix of repair work vs. paint work at that point. When I got hired at RJ Cars, I was the most experienced tech there other than the shop owner.”

Within a couple of years, Tremper became the lead technician and was officially named the body/paint shop manager.


“As the shop manager, I worked to train any new auto body techs so that they were familiar with our methods of repairs and made sure they knew the quality that was expected of them,” Tremper said. “I was the only painter for several years but as our staff grew, one of the other techs also began to paint some of the projects that he worked on.”


Throughout his time at the restoration shop, many projects Tremper worked on were featured in national magazines such as Mopar Muscle, Mopar Collectors Guide and Muscle Car Review. After years of honing his skills in the field, however, Tremper decided it was time for a career change.


“When the opportunity came along to work at Alfred State, it seemed like the perfect fit,” he said. “I could take the experience that I had in the industry, that started with my degree from Alfred State, and pass it along to the next generation of students that are working toward being technicians themselves.”


Tremper began working at Alfred State in February 2017, teaching a partial semester of engine repair. At the end of the semester, he applied for a full-time auto body instructor position that became available and was hired for the job.

Tremper was asked what he enjoys most about teaching.


“The interactions with the students and seeing their progression as they work their way through the program is very rewarding,” he said. “When you see them face challenges that they don’t think they can get through so you guide them to the best of your ability and then they figure out that they can do it, that’s when it’s the most rewarding.”


The student interactions, Tremper admits, keep him on his toes.


“I had some preconceived notions of what I thought it was going to be like teaching and the students quickly made me realize that it is much different than I thought it would be,” he said. “When you are an experienced technician, it’s all about repetition and productivity. Getting things done and doing it fast is the name of the game.”


In addition to interacting with the students, Tremper also greatly enjoys working with his fellow faculty members.


“My coworkers in the automotive trades department are truly the best,” he said. “They have given me a ton of support as I started out teaching and I appreciate every one that has helped me along the way. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be surrounded by on a daily basis.”


We thank the Olean Times Herald for reprint permission.

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