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Tim Dearing

Diesel instructor enjoys helping students

For Tim Dearing, a longtime instructor in RCC’s Diesel Technology program, the best part of his job is helping displaced workers rebuild their lives and younger students launch a solid career.

“A lot of our students have lost their jobs and think it’s the end of the line. They come here, and we teach them how to get a family-wage job,” Dearing noted. “It’s a good feeling to help take them from despair to a whole new life and help them get their lives back “I also enjoy working with younger students who have picked diesel as their first career and help them get a good job right off the bat.”

Dearing, who graduated from Colorado Springs Community College and the Oregon Police Academy, retired as a firefighter and police officer. He then came to RCC and earned a degree in Diesel Technology.  “That’s how I got involved in the program. I just stayed on after graduation,” he explained. Now officially retired from RCC, Dearing still teaches a couple of classes each term. “The past 12 years teaching here have been great,” he said.

Fire Department Mechanic Richard Copenhaver trained at RCC

Richard Copenhaver takes pride in keeping the Illinois Valley Fire Department ready to roll.
Serving as chief mechanic, Copenhaver maintains the agency’s sizeable fleet of ambulances and fire trucks — even lawnmowers. “I love what I do for a living,” he said. “When crews save the day, you get personal satisfaction in knowing you played a role. A truck on the repair rack is useless, so I’m motivated to get it back on line.

“My having this job wouldn’t have been possible without RCC,” he added. A first-generation college student, Copenhaver has worked full time while attending RCC and completing his Diesel Technology degree.  “My employer is really supportive. IV Fire is very big on continuing education,” he said.

Originally from Wisconsin, Copenhaver came to Oregon in 2004 to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with his brother and fell in love with the region. 
Prior to training as a diesel technician, Copenhaver had “bounced around” at low-wage jobs. “I was completely dissatisfied with how my life was going.” he recalled. “The first step in fixing what’s wrong in your life is to get an education. RCC helped me lay the groundwork on a path to a brighter future.” After matching his abilities and interests with options at RCC, he selected diesel technology “I wanted to have a career in something I’m good at,” he said. Returning to school 15 years after high school wasn’t easy, he said, “but if you stick with it, good things will happen.”

On a recent day he was juggling three projects: installing a new clutch, overhauling brakes, and doing a stem-to stern-electrical rewiring on a vintage truck. “Everything I do in my work is built on the foundation that RCC helped me build,” he said. “That’s what’s great about the RCC program. It’s very diverse and gave me a well-rounded, perfect melding of what you see in the field.”

With a wife and two young sons, Copenhaver appreciates how flexible Rogue is for working students. And he often turns to his instructors for technical advice on vexing projects.“What I find most appealing about the instructors at RCC is they are knowledgeable, friendly, and give you hands on experience… They set the bar pretty high and won’t let you slide.”

Instructor Tim Dearing has played a big role in helping Copenhaver gain needed skills. “Tim’s a great guy, a hands-on instructor and a good friend,” Copenhaver said. “This guy’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get down and dirty and show you how to do something.”

Copenhaver, who feels he’s arrive at his niche, finds inspiration in knowing lives are in the balance. “The best part of this job is that I feel I am performing a valuable public service. The biggest reward is hearing sirens coming down the road and knowing I helped make it possible. If firefighters don’t have to worry about their equipment, I’m doing my job,” he noted. “RCC has opened the door to whole new life for me.”

Have a story idea for the website? Please E-mail Atana Morell