Cypress College Auto Tech Professor Michael Klyde Goes the Extra Mile for Students Feature Story

November 16, 2021

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Cypress College to shift classes online, automotive technology instructor Michael Klyde knew he had to find a way to get his students  back into the lab. Not only did he succeed, but his innovations and willingness to share his plans recently earned him the title of California Automotive Teachers Association as Automotive Teacher of the Year.

As a long-time instructor in Cypress College’s Toyota Technician Training and Education Network (T-TEN) program, Klyde believed the hands-on training component of the program was critical for students to understand the intricacies of repairing a vehicle.

“You can’t just show videos and be in a room with a camera and stream it through Zoom and have the students be able to do it,” says Klyde.

To accomplish this, Klyde worked with Kevin Roner at Shoreline College in Washington and Mike Godson of Clark College in Oregon on the T-TEN “Safe Labs Plan” for automotive classes. They began meeting two to three times a week to develop a plan, which included protocols for using face masks and shields, hand sanitizers and social distancing, on how to hold automotive labs safely. By July, they had students back in the lab. He then shared his plans with fellow automotive instructors at conferences in California and nationwide.

The award caps Klyde’s 40-year love affair with cars that began in the summer of 1981, when he came to Orange County to be with his family for summer break and work. Klyde got a job with the DeLorean Motor Company. With the “coolness” of this job, he gave up plans to return to the University of Arkansas and set up home in Orange. 

“I had always loved cars,” Klyde said. “Even though that first job didn’t last long, I was hooked.”

He attended automotive courses at Golden West College, became an auto technician and then attended California State University at Long Beach with the goal of getting a degree so he could become a high school automotive instructor. As his studies were finishing in 1989, many high schools were closing their auto shop programs due to the recession. An offer to work in automotive research and development led to working first at Hitachi Automotive Products and then at Mitsubishi Motor Sales developing training materials for automotive technicians. 

While working at Mitsubishi, he learned that a part-time teaching position in the Automotive Technology department at Cypress was available. The day before the Fall 1995 semester started, the department chair called him and offered him a course to teach. 

Klyde continued part-time while earning a master’s degree in occupational studies from Cal State Long Beach and in 2007 was hired as a full-time instructor. Two years later, he began working on developing new curriculum for the T-TEN program so that students would have a greater understanding of what they were being taught. For example, students who were diagnosing stop lights that do not turn on had to be able to use a wiring diagram, develop a diagnostic plan and then use a diagnostic tool to locate the cause. 

“It needed to be a performance-based instruction model,” he said. “They needed to know why they were doing it instead of just taking a voltage reading or looking at a diagnostic trouble code.” 

Cypress Colleges’ T-TEN program has long been considered one of the best in the country and was recognized in January for having the highest number of Automotive Service Excellence tests passed per student for the second year in a row. Despite the challenges created by the pandemic, the two-year program saw all students in 2020 and 2021 complete. In fact, the class of 2021 is the largest graduating class in the history of T-TEN not only at Cypress, but at any of the other 36 T-TEN sites across the United States.

Klyde then presented the material to other instructors nationwide and created a PowerPoint that was available online to any instructor. In large part, his recent award is recognition of the impact and importance of these efforts. 

“That work that I did was critical to automotive technician training,” he said. “California teachers were appreciative that it helped get students back into the lab.” Cypress Auto Tech used this training, adapting it as more was learned about COVID,  and there have not been any outbreaks that required the lab to be halted. The students know not to come to class if they are not feeling well and the proper use of personal protective decives, hand washing and wiping surfaces is working. 

Klyde’s love affair with autos is continuing. He noted the irony that he runs a Toyota program although he has six Fords and two General Motors vehicles at home. But his greatest joy is seeing the success of his students.

“The thing I do it for the most is to see students at the graduation event,” he said. “It’s great to see these students who are going to be earning a livable wage and living a good life.”