This month, guest speaker and former Auto Body educator, Gary Kaschak, visited TST BOCES. Kaschak visited his old stomping grounds to sit down with current Auto Body students. With all eyes on him, he discussed the importance of having a strong work ethic, being passionate about your craft and his personal journey.
Before becoming an educator in 1984, Kaschak owned his own body shop for over 10 years. After looking for a career that allowed him to spend more time with his family, he began working at Career and Tech. At the time of his retirement, he had spent 30 years teaching and it is estimated that he worked with close to 1,500 students. “I would say that 99% of my students are successful, even if they did not end up doing Auto Body just because of the life skills they learned here,” he says, “The three main life skills I taught them were to treat everyone with respect as well as have respect for yourself, second, I would say is to have interests outside of a trade to become a well rounded individual, and third, is to go try new things. Do not be afraid to explore and if something does not work out that's okay. Pick yourself back up and get going.”
Kaschak’s legacy for impactful student learning continues to this day. He is the reason Career and Tech students participate each year in SkillsUSA. This nationwide academic association supports the further development of students, whose focus is on careers in skilled trades. He has spent 12 years running the area 2 competition and then 4 years with the state competition. The next SkillsUSA competition will be taking place at the Fairgrounds in Syracuse, NY from April 26-28, 2023. For students to participate and have uniforms, there are multiple events throughout the year to fundraise and gain sponsors from local businesses. The most popular event at TST BOCES is the annual car show. Thanks to Kaschak and now the head organizer Sandy Foote, the fundraiser will be celebrating its 30th year anniversary on May 21st, 2023! The whole community will come together, compete for best in show, and raise money for an amazing cause.
Among the many students Kaschak has inspired during his time at the school is current Auto Body educator, Matt Lott. When Lott first met Kaschak, he remembers he was pretty much ready to drop out of school. His father, Bruce Lott had a reputation of being one of the best body men in the business. “In 10th grade, I got an opportunity to go to BOCES and learn Auto Body," explained Lott, “My Dad always did that. I never really tried before. Then I did some work on a car once when we got working on some live projects in class. Kaschak came over after working on something and I had him check on it. He told me I did a good job, which was the first time I had ever heard that in school. After that, I just decided that this is what I wanted to do. It was the first thing I was good at.” Everyday Lott uses techniques and lessons he had learned under Kaschak’s wing. He shared that there is something about him that makes you want to work hard. “I remember he once picked me and a few students to stay after school to work on painting. It was crazy to think about me staying after school to work when I would have never done that before, much less even be in school most of the time,” he stated,”If you showed him you were dedicated then he would be there for you. I want to thank him for helping me find my drive and helping so many other people. It was not just me.”
Lott has been filling Kaschak's shoes at Career and Tech for eight years now. Kaschak expressed what it means for Lott to take his place, “Matt has integrity, he is honest with people, and has a really good work ethic. In our business, your name and what you stand for means a lot. I am very proud of Matt. He is doing a great job and brings his own style.”
TST BOCES thanks Kaschak for his many years of hard work and dedication. He has been a huge part of Career and Tech’s success and we appreciate everything he has done for our school. He says that there was not one day that went by where he was not excited to come to class and teach. “We have made a lot of students really successful. This not only has to do with what I have done, but also what the school here has to offer. One of the best parts about working here was all of the teachers, we are a family.” He also highly recommends prospective students come visit the classrooms and explore their interests. It is important for them to get a real feel for hands-on learning up close. So what is next in store for Kaschak? He says he will spend his summer working on auto projects in his garage, hanging out with family, staying involved with his church and of course enjoying his new swimming pool. “I keep busy and live just like that Tom Petty lyric, ‘You never slow down, you never grow old’.”
For more information on Career and Technical programs, please visit tstboces.org/cte