Automotive Educator Receives Top Honor

The Michigan Occupational Deans Administrative Council Claude Townsend of Oakland Community College to receive the 2021 Trends in Occupational Studies Outstanding Educator Award for exemplary dedication and commitment to occupational education.

All 28 community colleges in Michigan were invited to nominate a full-time faculty member for this award.

Each year at MODAC’s trends conference, one notable faculty member is recognized for leadership and teamwork impacting learning, student performance and outcomes, as well as teamwork and collaboration with internal and/or external associates.

Townsend was nominated for the award by his dean, Jolene Chapman, who oversees OCC’s Engineering, Manufacturing and Industrial Technologies programs. In the nomination, Chapman recognized Townsend’s long-standing work to ensure the college’s program is among the best in Michigan.

“It was a no-brainer for me to nominate Claude Townsend from Oakland Community College. In the last five years, he has led the successful rejuvenation of the Automobile Servicing Program; expertly secured a prestigious national accreditation from the Automotive Service Excellence Education Foundation; and helped launch a new Heavy Equipment Repair program, the only community college program in Southeast Michigan ready to meet industry demand for career-ready students,” Chapman said via email.

She said that Townsend continuously exhibits excellence in the classroom with extraordinary teaching methods and that he has unwavering commitment to improve student performance and outcomes. He is consistently rated as one of the best faculty members at the college by both current and former students and his peers.

“With Claude’s dedication to ensuring students receive the education and guidance they need to be successful after graduation, his commitment to professional and personal development and industry-based training, his continued pursuit of high-level certifications in the Automotive instruction arena, and his longstanding work to help the College’s program be among the best in Michigan, Claude Townsend is certainly deserving of the Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year Award. Oakland Community College is lucky to have him, and I am honored to work with him,” she said.

Townsend joined OCC in 2016 and took charge of rejuvenating the automobile servicing program.

Among the program’s recent high honors is accreditation from the ASE Education Foundation. Townsend has worked to earn professional distinction as a certified NC3 Master Instructor — reportedly the only community college instructor to earn this certification in Michigan. Townsend has also been at the forefront in developing OCC’s new Heavy Equipment Repair program to effectively address the skills gap within the region.

“Claude has always been committed to both professional and personal development and industry-based training to ensure his students receive the best education and guidance they need to be successful after graduation. His commitment and continued pursuit of high-level industry certifications in the automotive instruction arena truly sets him apart as an excellent candidate, deserving of this prestigious award,” said Chapman.

Launching this winter, it is the only community college program of its type offered in southeast Michigan.

“I was surprised to be given this award from MODAC. It is really a testament to the great team we have at OCC in the automotive and EMIT areas that made this possible,” Townsend said via email.

Townsend has been teaching for approximately 20 years. The support he said he has received from the administration, faculty and students has been outstanding.

“When I started teaching here, I had a question about a change I wanted to discuss, and the reply from administration was, ‘It’s your program, what do you want to do.’ I have taken that statement with me when I approach goals I have set. But it’s not my program — I just happen to be the lead right now. I look at everything from the perspective of what is going to help educate students and allow them to learn skills which make them employable. I think I have succeeded in that goal,” he said.

He said that, throughout his life, he has had some great teachers and role models; he has learned a lot from his dad about technical and non-technical things, which has carried over into his professional career.

“Other teachers have provided knowledge about teaching that only great veteran teachers could share from personal experience. Looking back, I wish I could thank them all. I like a challenge. My whole career, I have been stepping up to make sure students are the priority when it comes to education and being successful. There is not a day that goes by that I am not helping students in one way or another, current of former students,” he said.

OCC Provost Jennifer Berne proudly noted Townsend’s collaborative style, as do those who work with him closely — his students, alumni and colleagues.

“Claude is consistently rated as one of the best faculty members at the College by both current and former students and his peers, testament to his classroom excellence and dedication to the program. We are very fortunate to have someone who is so passionate about student success and a recognized leader in automotive education,” Berne said.

Automotive Oakland CC
Oakland Community College’s Claude Townsend recently received a prestigious statewide recognition, the 2021 Trends in Occupational Studies Outstanding Educator Award.
File photo provided by Kim Madeline

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