SBVC Diesel Faculty Wins ‘Excellence in Teaching’ Award from IEDRC

Long before Berchman “Kenny” Melancon started teaching at San Bernardino Valley College, he was teaching mechanics and repair by telephone to truckers often stuck at roadside. He specialized in that niche for two of the largest Cab-over truck companies in the world, along with other major dealerships, helping technicians fix their trucks nationwide. He's met a lot of different people in the industry. At times, he is still on call.  “I actually still have dealerships that we talk to across the United States. When they've got problems we talk about it and figure it out.” 
  
Melancon was recently recognized by the Inland Empire/Desert Regional Consortium with the Excellence in Teaching award for his dedication to expanding vehicle technology, and developing course curriculum to help students get career ready for the long haul. He motivates students to succeed whatever their level of learning skills. “We don't leave anybody behind. Those that take longer to learn, we give them more of the same types of exercises to get them up to speed,” he said. 
 
These days, the course offerings are expanding, especially compared to eight years ago when he first came to campus and the only certificates were fixing flat tires and truck inspection. Since then, he rewrote the curriculum with several different focuses in mind. Next spring session, he is excited to offer noncredit courses that have been approved in Sacramento, covering the same instruction and same certificate as the other paid classes, except they are totally free aside from a small registration fee.  
 
Non-credit instruction verifies that the student has completed and passed the courses, which is usually enough to satisfy employers. Once they get the job, students return to take the final test and become credited. Units can also go toward an associates degree, which many employers are willing to pay for, he said. 
 
For the most part, his knack for getting money and resources for the students is what drives programming. In the past four years he's pulled in about $750,000 in donations and grants. Now that the state is pushing near zero emissions, he sees big opportunities in clean technology.  Classes are now leaning more green. “We teach CNG, alternative fuels and hybrid cars, which eventually is going to be incorporated into hybrid heavy-duty trucks,” he said.  
 
Recently, he and others met with representatives from Rio Hondo College, which teaches courses in hybrid and electric car, along with Volvo to talk about their next steps in electrification.  SBVC and Rio Hondo received the Volvo Lights grant, part of the Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions, a project to create a zero-emission goods movement system from the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.  
 
“We're getting $200,000 from them this month to write the curriculum, and buy some components for training in the classroom. We're the only two colleges in the state that got part of the Volvo grant,” Melancon said.  
 
For a long time, diesel has been synonymous with big trucks. Today, it's synonymous with dirty and greasy. In the future, the word may be obsolete. Currently, there are stackable credit and non-credit certificates in Heavy Duty Diesel Engines, Advanced Heavy-Duty Diesel Engines, Heavy-Duty Truck Systems, Diesel Alternative Fuels, and Auto/Truck Electrical Systems. But soon, he said the class titles will change. His new classes are referred to as HMDT, Heavy Medium Duty Truck. “We're getting rid of the word diesel,” he said. “I'm taking all classes and calling them HMDT, heavy medium duty truck. That's the new abbreviation to replace diesel.”  
 
Recently, Melancon was called to a Riverside event to talk with participants from across country about why SBVC concurrent enrollment works so well. He said their successful concurrent enrollment with Pacific High School has been great for the entire campus, but also within his department. 
 
The question kept coming up about how he gets manufacturer backing. “I told them we had our students write letters, asking for things,” he said. “It's all about the students. You get the students to apply themselves in writing and ask for a truck.” That method also works well with grants. He advises people to learn to listen because the answers are already there. Many local businesses attend advisory meetings to inform teachers about the instruction they want to see for job readiness. "They want you to teach what they're asking. It means they want to hire somebody if you teach it,” he said.  
 
Larry McLaughlin, Deputy Sector Navigator (DSN), Advanced Transportation & Renewable Energy Inland Empire/Desert Region Colleges, nominated Melancon for the award. McLaughlin commended his efforts to provide employment opportunities by establishing new partnerships within the regional transportation industry, and preparing the students through the new curriculum on advanced technologies. “Through Kenny's leadership, his department and the college have positioned themselves to be the Inland Empire provider of technician training on new generation engines endorsed by state and regional air quality agencies,” McLaughlin stated.