Dorothy Michel and Gianna Lally also contributed to this article.
A little-known fact about Malden High School is that they have an auto shop course where students learn how to fix and repair cars. This class is taught by Chris Bazzinotti and his room is located on the first floor of the Holland building.
The automotive class has three levels. “Level one is [the] beginner level, and we teach kids about the automobile,” Bazzinotti said. “It’s a very basic level.”
“We have all kinds of kids that have taken it. I have beginner kids that are in the ninth grade and beginner kids that are in the 12th grade. So, my classes are made up of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors,” Bazzinotti continued.
Bazzinotti teaches about the automobile and the different sciences that are associated with it. For example, Bazzinotti will teach a lesson about how hydraulics work. He teaches students about the cooling system, the fluids in the engine, how water boils and how they can manipulate the boiling point of water.
“We teach kids how to measure things, and we teach kids how to use a few machines,” he said. The students also learn about oil changes, front ends, auto shop safety and industrial safety.
“I give them a good course and teach them about safety, as far as industrial safety,” said Bazzinotti. This is in the hopes that students will know what to do when they go out to work somewhere, whether that would be identifying areas that are wrong or being experienced in knowing how to act. “Some of the kids that have been in here that actually go off to the world of work are better served when they get there.”
“So what I try to do is I try to put everybody at ease with those types of things. So they're not afraid to look at stuff. Some kids participate at such a level that they could actually move up and go to the intermediate level class and we're taking apart engines,” he explained.
Bazzinotti gave an example about an orange truck that the class is working on. “The engine went bad. It's just an old truck, but the engine had a problem…We could do all kinds of stuff to learn. But what I try to do is I try to keep it interesting, and I try to keep it informative, and I try to keep it a little humorous. I have a lot of experience because I was an auto technician at a Chevrolet dealer for a long time.”
“I take my job personally. I love all my students, but at Malden High School, we're very lucky to still have the automotive program and it would be great to bring back a couple of other programs so we could get more kids involved,” Bazzinotti explained, emphasizing the importance of hands-on classes.
During COVID and remote learning, Bazzinotti was not sure how he would run the auto shop course. However, he adapted quickly by figuring out a good system. What he would do was find specific cars that had problems with them, and the students would have to search up the model, when it was created and problems it would have, as well as other details.
“If there is a problem with those cars, all we have to do is type in the year of the model of the car and what the problems [were], and we can search on the web for problems that exist with these vehicles,” Bazzinotti said.
Senior Jordan Rodriguez, one of the students working in the auto shop, shared why he joined the auto shop. “My interest in cars [grew from] dirt bikes so I have always had an interest in anything with a motor.”
Rodriguez believed that COVID caused a huge shift while working in the auto shop. “It definitely made a change in a way” because a lot of the students in the course, he noted, were “more hands-on.”
Senior Omar Abdalla, another student in the auto shop, said “I’ve always been interested in cars. I've been trying to get this class since freshman year but didn’t get it until this year.”
Another senior in the class, David Higuera, shared, “As we did online repair orders, we got good at it. We got good on the technology side, but we were not learning the physical side. We did car repair orders online, and it was pretty good. We learned a lot, but I would definitely say it's easier to learn while you're in the shop.”
While talking about the environment the auto shop creates, Bazzinotti shared how “it's always kind of been like that.” He expressed how “groups usually tend to work together and they make friends. Those kids all like to get along pretty good and they form new friendships in those classes that last a lifetime. A lot of friendships get formed in this room. Once kids start talking to you, they are friendly and giggling. The next thing you know, a friendship forms.”