The co-owner of Black Diamond Collision Center in Pittsburg, CA, Salas credits her favorite instructor and her highly supportive father for her progression within the collision repair industry.
The instructor Salas is referring to is Peter Lock, her former teacher at Contra Costa College (CCC). “Mr. Lock taught me a lot about life and helped me to become a better person. He also gave me the knowledge I needed to be successful as a shop owner," she said. “By graduating from the program at CCC, I was able to start this shop with my father, who has been in the trade for 30 years. Mr. Lock is an incredible teacher because he truly cares and he shows it. He gave us the resources to succeed. I wanted my welding certification and he helped to make it happen. I owe him a lot because he played a big role in helping me to get to this point as an owner of a shop.”
After going through a series of interviews and performing demonstrations for school officials, Salas was recently hired as a Body and Refinishing instructor at CCC, a nationally-renowned automotive tech school located on campus in San Pablo, CA.
With many of his former students flourishing at body shops all over the country and leading the collision industry in various roles as owners, managers, estimators, body techs and paint techs, lifelong tech instructor and department head Peter Lock retired from CCC after 36 years as a leader, mentor and educator who taught more than 3,500 students over the years.
When Lock left the program, there was definitely a void, even though he is still involved on a part-time basis. Now, one of Lock's star graduates is replacing him at CCC, and Salas couldn't be happier.
Peter Lock is also obviously delighted by the appointment. "Laura was one of my best students ever," Lock said. "She always did the best she could do in classes, getting her welding certificates, and she was awarded over $10,000 in scholarships. She went on to owning her own business and now she has been chosen through a rigorous interviewing process to lead the CCC Collision program into the future. It is very gratifying to have an alumnus of CCC come back to teach where she received her degree. All of us in the automotive technology department are looking forward to working with her."
Tiffany Silva, the owner of Accurate Auto Body in Richmond, CA is the president of the East Bay Chapter of the California Autobody Association as well as a member of CCC's review board for the auto tech department. "I met Laura several times in the past, but was unsure if she would have the necessary skills needed to fill Peter's position," Silva said. "Laura's interview for the position was amazing! Her teaching demonstration not only proved she has the skills needed to teach, but it impressed me tremendously. The welding demonstration she gave proved she had the knowledge and ability, and I believe she will be able to connect with the students and carry on this incredible program."
Salas will be starting her new role as a teacher at CCC this month, and although she's a little nervous, she's poised and prepared to take on the challenge. "I have zero teaching experience, but attending the same program that I will now be teaching will help me a lot," she said. "I received a lot of firsthand exposure from Mr. Lock, my fellow students and all of the other great people out in the collision industry who play a role at CCC. Much of what is learned there is still very fresh in my mind, so I am ready for this job."
Will Salas be able to still work at her shop while teaching at CCC? "Yes, although I realize I am going to be busy," she said. "I will be teaching five hours, six days a week and then I will be working at the shop. My father will still be helping me and we have a good crew, so it will definitely work."
Becoming an instructor at CCC is a dream fulfilled, Salas explained. "My ultimate goal was to become a teacher at CCC, but I never thought it would happen. Now I know that it's real, so I am really excited. This is a great industry and I'm proud to be a part of it as well as being a teacher now."