Heavy Construction Equipment Tech instructor earns college’s top faculty honor
Dan Ruzicka, an instructor in the Heavy Construction Equipment Technology program at Dakota County Technical College, was named the 2010 Outstanding Instructor of the Year. Ruzicka began teaching at DCTC seven years ago, but his history with the college dates back to 1984 when he enrolled in the Heavy Construction Equipment Mechanic program. Originally from Eagan, Minn., and a 1983 graduate of Rosemount High School in Rosemount, Minn., Ruzicka went on to earn a two-year diploma from the program.
Ruzicka’s career as a professional heavy construction equipment technician began at the Hayden-Murphy Equipment Company in Bloomington, Minn., right after he graduated from DCTC. After two years, he joined Johnson Welding as a welder, demonstrating a skill set integral to the work of a heavy construction equipment tech. In fact, Ruzicka teaches a 2-credit Welding and Flame Cutting course as part of the curriculum of the college’s Advanced Caterpillar Technology A.A.S. degree.
“Once I started teaching, I found that you really get caught up in working for your students. You want them to make the right decisions. You want them to succeed.”
After a two-year stint as a welder, Ruzicka worked at Friedges Landscaping in Lakeville, Minn., excelling as a field service mechanic for five years before heading to Ryan Contracting out of Elko, Minn.
“I never considered becoming a college instructor,” Ruzicka said. “Certainly not back when I was a student at DCTC. But then one day I spotted an ad in the paper for a Heavy Construction Equipment Technology instructor at the college. My first thought was that I would have summers off, but once I started teaching I found that you really get caught up in working for your students. You want them to make the right decisions. You want them to succeed.”
Ruzicka’s teaching philosophy centers on keeping his program’s curriculum as close to industry standards as possible. He works with a hands-on Advisory Committee with representatives from the industry’s major company’s, including Ziegler Cat, MacQueen Equipment, Nuss Truck & Equipment, Hayden-Murphy, Aspen Equipment, RDO Equipment, Phillippi Equipment, St. Joseph Equipment and others.
“We gear our curriculum to build a solid foundation in each of our students,” Ruzicka said. “We teach them to be safe, smart and responsible. Our graduates are ready to enter the shop environment as entry-level technicians with all the fundamentals down plus the ability to best utilize their resources.”
DCTC President Ronald E. Thomas was exceptionally pleased with Dan Ruzicka’s selection as the Outstanding Instructor of the Year, noting that instructors of Ruzicka’s caliber are the bedrock of technical education. “Dan exemplifies all the best qualities of a college instructor,” Thomas said. “He is committed to continually bettering his program while making sure his students are equipped to compete successfully in his industry’s job market. In many ways, an instructor is measured by the quality of his program’s graduates—and Dan’s are the very best out there.”
Mike Opp, the college’s dean of transportation and technical careers, appreciates Ruzicka’s dedication to his profession. “Dan and I started at DCTC about the same time,” Opp said. “He has an upbeat teaching style matched with tremendous technical knowledge and experience. That combination is what engages his students. He really cares about his students and they know it.”
As for the award, Dan Ruzicka was both surprised and delighted. “It’s an honor,” he said simply. “And it’s great for the program.”
Dan Ruzicka and his HCET students get first news of the award