George Rocha is all about helping students find a productive profession and for the last 11 years his passion has been teaching the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration Program at EAC.
Rocha, 64, has actually taught all ages. He spent 21 years with the Boy Scouts and 11 years teaching Eastern Arizona College's HVACR program at the state prison. Nowadays, he is in his first semester of teaching the same program to college students.
To Rocha, life is about choices and he wants to give his students more of them.
“In prison, after they made the wrong choices, I helped them make good choices again,” he said.
Rocha said it's an amazing feeling to receive a letter from former inmates thanking him for helping them improve their lives.
Also, he said he understands what it is like to have more control over his own future. He felt the same way when he learned how to be a HVACR technician.
“I was a general contractor and I switched to air conditioning when they changed the laws in 1976,” he said. “Instantly the wages went up and the competition went down. It was an awesome business opportunity because there was less competition. I love construction. I switched to air conditioning because I saw it as the most lucrative field.”
Many of Rocha’s students are taking his class to get more control over their lives. His students range from teenagers to middle-aged.
Kip Nelson, an EAC commercial drivers license instructor, has been working with Rocha for 10 years and says Rocha gives education his all.
“He’s put a lot of heart and soul into his program. His philosophy on teaching is to make people’s futures better,” he said. “And he’s always trying to make the community better to improve people’s lives.”
Nelson said Rocha was always trying to give spiritual advice, financial advice and pass on knowledge to his students at the prison. He regularly looks at the bright side of a situation and he cares a lot about the people.
“He takes on their personal goals and tries to help them with theirs. He’s got a lot of people he’s helped out at the prison. And he follows up with them even when they’re out of prison,” he said. “He lets them call him, and he’ll do the same for the classes at the college. He’s just a good guy, and he tries to help everybody.”
Rocha teaches his students how to become quality technicians, he said. They receive a firm educational background in refrigeration and electrical troubleshooting as well.
“There’s a huge demand nationwide and it’s one of the essential industries,” he said. “It’s kind of like his personal endeavor to make sure everyone has the chance to learn because it made such a difference in his life. You get a good trade, knowing you can work anywhere. There is a lot of freedom this trade can give to someone.”
Janice Lawhorn, EAC dean of curriculum and instruction, commended Rocha’s work as an educator.
“George has been an excellent instructor for us for over 10 years teaching HVAC in our state and federal prisons. He has taken the lead on developing an outstanding HVAC program on EAC’s campus which just began this spring,” she said. “He is passionate about the HVAC field and excited to offer this program to our community. This program will provide exceptional opportunities for students to enter a lucrative career.”
Rocha hopes the college turns the HVACR Program into a permanent class.
“People who can come to class learn something that will last a lifetime,” he said.