Olathe auto teacher uses personal experience to encourage students to succeed

OLATHE, Kan. - An Olathe teacher was recognized as the National Instructor of the Year by the National Institute for Automotive Excellence.

Edward Hensley teaches automotive technology at the Mill Creek Center for the Olathe Public School District.

"We try to make them career, tech and college ready," Hensley said. "Either go to work in the field or post-secondary education."

Becoming a high school teacher was an unlikely route for the Air Force Veteran and former dealership mechanic.

"It was one of the requirements from my father was that I was going to graduate," Hensley said. "I had no real desire to go to school."

Hensley said it wasn't until he left the Air Force with a wife and two children that he fully understood how important it was to go to school.

"That's when I realized I needed to go learn a trade," he said. "I went into community college, got my associates."

Hensley worked at the dealership level for 30 years and taught classes at Johnson County Community College part-time.

That's when the calling came for him to teach younger students.

"Some of them just need somebody to believe in them," Hensley said.

Aubrey Turner is one of those students. She's known since seventh grade that she wanted to be a motorcycle mechanic.

"I'm pretty sure I told my aunt I have everything planned out," said Turner. "I'm going to go to the Harley Davidson school, I'm going to be a mechanic or whatever. Whole family just laughed at me."

Through high school, Turner hasn't always had it easy, but she said Hensley has been there to keep her on track.

"Mr. Hensley is by far, the most amazing teacher I've ever had," Turner said. "He is always there for me when I need him. He's dug me out of holes before."

As a senior at Olathe Northwest High School, Turner is looking forward to graduation. She's headed to the Harley Davidson School of Technology to help her achieve her dream.

"It's nice watching them grow up and be successful," Hensley said.

He said sharing his experience of struggles he had because he didn't care for school as a student helps him connect with his students.

"I didn't see a need in school, there was no purpose for me in school," Hensley said. "What I try to instill in these students here, there is a purpose."

Part of what makes him a great teacher, as opposed to just a good one, is that connection he develops through personal stories.

"Some of our students come not knowing what they want to do, and he has the ability to motivate them and help them figure that out," said Kathy Musgrave, administrator for career and technical education for Olathe Public Schools.

Hensley said it's all about support.

"Some of the students, they just need somewhere to succeed," he said. "They need to experience success and they do it here. It lights up their life and gets them motivated."

In addition to teaching full-time, Hensley also worked to complete his education degree. He credits his success to the support he's received from the other teachers at the Mill Creek Center and the administrators with Olathe Public Schools.

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