The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, July 13, 2014

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, July 13, 2014

Warning: Teaching students how to drive a car or fly a plane can be hazardous to your health. Take it from our panel of instructors, who shared their most unforgettable moments on the job.


Driver's ed instructor, Centennial High

"I had arrived at school to start my shift one summer and noticed the car was nowhere to be seen. This was before everyone had a cell phone. I figured the previous group was probably just a little late getting back.

"After roughly 30 minutes, I finally saw them rolling up, mud covering both sides of the car. The tires, wheel wells and underside were completely caked. When my colleague got out, I just took the keys from him without saying a word. I figured nothing needed to be said."


Owner, M&M Driving School

"Not long after I opened M&M in 2000, I received a call from a U of I grad student wanting to take a few lessons. She'd grown up in New York, was graduating and now needed a license.

"When I picked her up, she seemed pretty nervous. I told her, 'Just follow my directions.' As we drove away from her apartment area, I started to give her an instruction: 'Turn left' — and before I could add 'at the stop sign' — she jerked the wheel left and we smacked into the curb. The left front tire popped and the suspension was bent. I made her help me change the tire and she walked back to her apartment as I limped the car across town to a repair shop.

"I have since modified my instructions to start with a location — as in: 'At the stop sign' — and then add 'turn left.' "


Flight instructor, Institute of Aviation

"One day, I was flying with my new instrument student west of Willard when the air traffic controller said, 'One Five Romeo, say airspeed.' The correct response would be to say what the indicated airspeed was at that time, but my student, completely serious and not missing a beat, responds: 'Airspeed.' The controller was not amused."


Driver's ed instructor, Tuscola High

"After making contact with the curb several times on our way down the first street of our first lesson, we came to a stop sign. The student innocently asked: 'Do I have to stop here?' I knew I was in for a long session."


Director of Aviation, Parkland College

"A colleague asked me to fly with his student for spin training. He had tried to do spins with her before and when they were just about to spin she'd tell him to stop because she was scared. I assured her I had done this many times and it was safe. So she agreed.

"I was explaining the maneuver and she was doing OK until I kicked it over into the spin and the door popped open. She screamed into the headset and grabbed my arm with 10 times her normal strength. Turns out, after the first spin, she discovered she really liked it so we did a few more. She left a pretty good bruise on my arm, though."


Driver's ed instructor, Mahomet-Seymour High

"It was my first year of teaching behind the wheel, 14 years ago but still vivid in my mind. We were driving on Interstate 57, going south. My driver had just handled the 57/74 corridor quite well. However, we were about to encounter our first time passing on the interstate.

"My driver turned on his signal to return to the right lane when he saw both headlights of the semi truck in the rearview mirror. The student was a bit nervous and lost speed in the pass. As I looked up when we got over to the right lane, all I could see was the grill of the semi we just passed. He was honking repeatedly to let us know he was right there. Let me tell you: The grill of a semi is much larger up close and personal."


Flight instructor, Institute of Aviation

"We were coming in for a landing, and it was looking like it'd be all right. Then, right before we touched the ground, the student said, 'Oh (expletive).' My heart skipped a beat. I started to grab for the controls, but there was nothing drastically going wrong so I let her land.

"Afterward, I asked the student why she said that. She said that we were drifting a little to the side of the center line of the runway and she couldn't remember what to do."


Driver's ed instructor, Centennial High

"One summer I had a student show up for the first day of class. He told me he not only knew how to drive, but that he was very good at driving. The next day, he shows up for class with his arms and head bandaged and covered with wounds. His mom said that he wouldn't be able to drive because of the pain killers that he was on. I asked him what happened and he told me that he wrecked his four wheeler, end over end and at a high rate of speed, the previous night and that he didn't have a helmet on at the time. He was lucky that he didn't kill himself. After that experience, he decided to slow down and listen in behind the wheel."


Flight instructor, Institute of Aviation

"Many years ago, I was teaching at a glider school outside Chicago, and a retired wide receiver for the Chicago Bears was taking an introductory flight. After reaching 2,000 feet and releasing the rope to the tow plane, we did a few basic turns. Five minutes into the flight, he asks for a sick sack. I quickly returned the glider to the ground before it had to be used."


Driver's ed instructor, GCMS High

"We were doing the lesson on highway driving and traveling on Route 45 heading south toward Tolono. This was a long time ago, before Wal-Mart was put in. The student was going 55 mph, then she dropped down to 45, and I told her to increase the speed back to 55. Then she did it again.

"I asked, 'What are you doing?' She said, 'First the speed limit was 55 and then it dropped to 45.' I said, 'No. The speed limit is 55 and we are on Route 45. Didn't you cover signs in the classroom?' She said 'No. Maybe I was gone when they covered signs.'

"I look back and count my blessings we weren't on Route 150 at the time."

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