Carl Hader, automotive whiz and Grafton High School teacher, inspires students to excell in the technical skills of the auto industry
The banner in Carl Hader’s auto shop proclaims “The Road to Excellence.”
Hader’s students are obviously traveling on that road.
They have won seven national events and have taken part in more than 140 auto competitions in his 36 years at Grafton High School.
“When you have a highly motivated teacher, it trickles down to your students,” said Todd Ambroziak, a 1994 Grafton High School graduate and senior master technician at Schmit Bros. Ford in Saukville.
“He’s a good leader, teacher and role model and his track record shows he’s done a good job.”
Hader graduated with a bachelor of science degree in industrial arts from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 1979.
He has motivated students to pursue automotive careers ever since.
Hader, 58, said his passion for cars started by exploring farm equipment and watching his father fix things at home.
“It developed into taking apart my own things and going on from there,” he said. “You move through different things until you find your niche. I just happened to roll the dice and have a good niche right from the get-go.”
His students have won so many awards, trophies and medals that the auto shop simply ran out of room.
Where most schools have football and basketball trophies, Grafton recognizes its auto program.
“When freshmen come in and see all this, they can’t help but want to be a part of it,” Jim Schmit of Schmit Bros. said. “I call him every other week looking for help.”
Hader said many of his students already have a passion for cars when they sign up for his classes, but it’s his job to further stoke that fire.
“The freshmen that come in are the raw materials and by the time they graduate, I would love for them to be a part of these trophies on the walls or earning scholarships to get their school paid for,” Hader said.
“You must have a passion to do this job. If you don’t, it’s just torture.”
Hader teaches an introductory automotive class for freshmen, an air cooled engine class, automotive basics classes and advanced placement classes where students with passing grades earn credits at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
Ambroziak said it’s impressive to see how far the automotive program has come since he graduated 21 years ago.
“Things have gotten much more advanced, but Carl has changed with the times,” he said. “You see a lot of older people who probably don’t do that. I think that’s why he’s so successful and driven.”
While Schmit Bros. and other auto dealerships in the area employ many of Hader’s former students, he’s also proud of students who go into other fields.
That includes everything from engineers who work at Ford, Chrysler and Toyota to technical writers and transportation industry journalists to heavy equipment operators and truck drivers.
Mark Wissing, an auto technician at Schmit Bros. Ford and a 1994 Grafton High School graduate, said he had no intention of working in the automotive industry until he got to high school and sat in Hader’s classes.
“There isn’t much in the way of auto classes in elementary and middle school,” Wissing said, “but you get to that freshman intro class and realize you could make money doing this. That’s appealing.”
Wissing said he uses some of the terms he learned in Hader’s classes in his job every day.
“There is such a vast vocabulary of words you use with all the systems on cars,” he said. “A lot of the things we do every day started out as basics in his classes.”
Wissing won the state Ford/AAA Auto Skills Competition and placed 12th at the national level in 1994.
Ambroziak took first place in the Automobile Dealers Association of Mega Milwaukee that year and went on to a 19th place finish at the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association competition.
In 2014, seniors Patrick Hahn and Colt Morris took top honors at the National Automotive Technology Competition, the program’s third national title at that event.
For some students, Hader said, coming to auto class is the reason they go to school every day. That motivates him to work harder as a teacher.
“You have to treat every hour like it’s the best hour because for some kids, that is the best part of their day,” he said.
STUDENTS IN Carl Hader’s advanced placement auto systems repair class (from left) Matt Kulczyski, Gary Volkmann, Pat Plier and D.J. Underwood learned how to install an alignment camber kit and stabilizer bushings on Friday. Photo by Sam Arendt