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Al Riso keeps it real as 2015 ABC Instructor of the Year

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The high quality of the ABC San Diego Apprenticeship Training Program is due in large part to its highly skilled and dedicated instructors. All instructors are experienced professionals who devote significant time to building the future generation of skilled construction craftworkers.

It isn’t surprising to learn that ABC San Diego’s 2015 Instructor of the Year originally planned to be a teacher.

Al Riso, a plumbing detailer working for Pacific Rim Mechanical in San Diego, said he got his bachelor’s degree at Northern Arizona University in geography with minors in English and history, with the intention of becoming a teacher.

He moved to San Diego and was hired by Pacific Rim Mechanical in 2005. When he learned about teaching opportunities in the Apprenticeship Training Program, it appealed to him.

ABC 2015 Instructor of the Year Al Riso (right) works with a plumbing apprentice in the Training Academy lab. Photo by Greg Eyer

“Part of what motivated me is I always liked the notion of teaching, sharing the knowledge I have and contributing to the industry,” Riso said. “It’s worked out very well for me at ABC.”

Riso says his approach to instruction is to make sure it all relates in the student’s mind to what he or she does on the job daily.

“You have a curriculum, and what’s in the textbook has to be taught. However, I try to apply it to what the students do day in and day out,” he said. “I find examples that directly relate to what they do on the job. I match what they will be using in real life to the curriculum and make it interesting, so they stay with me.”

Student feedback reflects the care Riso takes to make sure his students are engaged in the classroom and in the labs. Among the comments students shared about their experience with Riso:

“Great instructor! His labs are very useful toward improving our skills in the field.”

“Excellent instructor. Very available for questions.”

“He is a great instructor, he takes the time to make sure everybody understands.”

“He is a very kind and relatable instructor and relays information to students very well. I feel welcome every day and free to ask him about anything knowing that he will have an answer that will help me.”

“Great instructor! Gives informative layout of class time and sticks to it. He has helped me to know the possibilities of my trade and the potential, as well. Thanks much.”

Riso said the award came as a surprise, especially since he is among the junior members of the training staff. He credited several instructors as mentors who helped him a great deal, including Mark Fredin, Roger Rakotz, Eric Kleibenstein and 2014 Instructor of the Year Lance Zangger; as well as ABC Training Academy facilities manager Greg Eyer.

“I’m just happy to be there and be recognized. It’s a great thing to be a part of. I’m lucky to have this opportunity,” Riso said. “I’ve learned quite a bit having to teach the skills to someone else.”

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