Spotlight on Carl Hildebrandt and Automotive Technology

What do you do if you have gone to college to become a science teacher, taught science for twelve years, but, at the same time, known that you love to work with all sorts of things like cars, equipment and other mechanical things? Well, for Carl Hildebrandt, the answer to the questions was simple, he become an Automotive Technology Instructor at River Bend Career and Technical Center (RBCTC)! Carl is into his second year as the Auto Tech Teacher at RBCT, after leaving the Science Department at Oxbow High School, where he taught for ten years. To quote Carl, this shift is “the perfect combination."

The mechanical aptitude is something Carl has developed in various ways. He worked as an ad-hoc mechanic while stationed in Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division. In addition, he has worked out of his own garage for the past ten years in Topsham, VT. During those experiences, he has used his trouble-shooting skills and talents to fix almost anything that rolled into the shop. Thinking back to his youth, Carl sees himself as always liking to try to fix things, seeing how they go together, and trying to figure out how things worked.

In addition to his mechanical work and his love of teaching, Carl spends time with his wife and son, gardening, hiking, practicing shooting sports, driving a regular bus route for our district’s transportation system, and coaching softball at Oxbow High School!

There is always a place for learning the theory of how vehicles run and how to keep them running, but the real “magic” happens when Carl sees students in the shop with the “hands-on” part of the job. Seeing students learn to solve problems, and understand why things work as they do on customers’ vehicles is a very rewarding aspect of the job for him. As a former science teacher, he daily understands the science and math that occurs in the automotive field, and how skilled his students need to be in order to be successful with today’s vehicles. Looking toward the future, Carl is hopeful that there will be more recognition of all of the skill development in the areas of math and science he sees his students make while in his program from their home schools.

As is true with many of the programs at River Bend, students who complete the two-year program have a wide assortment of career directions to pursue from taking the Automotive Technology Program. Many students follow a traditional career path that leads toward working in shops, parts stores, or dealerships. Some go on to college from high school in this field, as there are various strong trade and technical colleges available. In addition, Carl has seen a student move successfully from his program into becoming an electrician’s apprentice, with a great set of acquired skills and abilities. One of the really positive aspects of teaching at River Bend that Carl has noticed is that the instructors help teach the students what it is like to actually work; and thus, hopefully, become successful at whatever they do in life!

Careers in the automotive technology field can be helped by post-secondary education from high school, but this path is not always essential to success. Carl sees many dealerships providing the training needed for their employees to advance after being hired. This specific training opens great earning potential, particularly in advanced electrical diagnostic capability. The willingness to learn new things, and apply them with changing technology, is a critical piece for success, no matter where a person starts their working career.

Most of today’s automotive technicians carry various certifications from the ASE Test series. ASE stands for “Automotive Service Excellence”, and the certification is offered in many different areas, from fields like: “Collision Repair and Refinish” to “Electronic Diesel Engine Diagnostic Specialist”. Students in Carl’s Automotive Technology program all complete and test out on the ASE Prep Certification, which allows the students to experience the real testing, and also to earn some college credit.

As in other programs, the contact Carl has with local businesses is essential to his program and the success of his students. He receives help and guidance from advisory members like Sean Miller (Oliverian Automotive), Paul Ordway (PTO’s), Justin Beaulieu (JTB Towing), Mike Olsen (NAPA), Carrol Porter, and Cameron Sweet (Wells River Chevrolet). These individuals not only help guide the program, they provide invaluable help to students by offering Cooperative Education (COOP) opportunities. In addition, both Wells River Chevrolet and Walker Motors, have been instrumental in offering to help with COOP opportunities for students.

For more information about the Automotive Technology Program at River Bend Career and Technical Center, please contact Carl Hildebrandt at

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