From Student to Instructor


During his time as a student at Cuyamaca College, Ignacio Castaneda Garcia’s car needed about $500 worth of mechanical work which he could not afford. After realizing that it would only cost $40 dollars to enroll in the Cuyamaca College Automotive Technology Program where he could learn and get his car fixed at no cost, the decision was easy. 


Having cultivated an interest in the material, Cuyamaca Instructor Brad McCombs introduced Castaneda Garcia to the Ford Asset Program, where students are able to get hands on learning by working at a local Ford dealership


“I didn’t really have a path until Brad said ‘hey do you want to work with Ford Asset?’” says Castaneda Garcia. At the time, Castaneda Garcia was the head of his household, taking care of his mother and his two siblings; so landing a job at El Cajon Ford was helpful.


“It was a really positive experience and continues to be a positive experience,” says Castaneda Garcia on his time at Cuyamaca.  


Now an instructor, Castaneda Garcia says he aspires to emulate the patience and empathy he received while a student. McCombs, noticing signs of struggle in Castaneda Garcia, reached out to lend a helping hand; even offering employment at his own shop. “I try to be that for my students too,” says Castaneda Garcia.


For Castaneda Garcia, the empathy and patience shown him is now his to grant. He meets students where they are, such as connecting with a student sleeping during class, showing up hungry, or struggling with the class content, and helps them to navigate these challenges. Taking the time to reach out to those students and assessing their situations rather than writing them off is a practice close to Castaneda Garcia’s heart.


Castaneda Garcia takes great joy in seeing the development of his students first hand. “I have students who just graduated who are already buying their first home. It’s just so cool to see,” says Castaneda Garcia.


Castaneda Garcia could tell you the names and stories of each one of his students. From his students that sought refuge from other countries to his students who didn’t speak a word of English when they began the program. “It hits me right in the feels,” says Castaneda Garcia.