Interview with May’s Instructor of the Month Winner – Craig “Smokey” Hilleary
With previous experience in the Army and Air Force as well as driving OTR with Schneider since 93, Craig Hilleary seemed to be a natural fit when he joined the C1 Indianapolis team in August of 2007. “I saw a sign outside that C1 was hiring, went in to apply and was hired soon after,” says Hilleary. During his almost 5 years now as a truck driving school instructor with C1, Craig has helped hundreds of students at both our Indianapolis and Little Rock locations.
Craig was recently named our C1 Indianapolis Instructor of the Month for May, so let’s get to know Craig some more and find out what makes him a student favorite…
Q: What do you like the most about being a truck driving school instructor?
A: I enjoy being around people and the rewards that come with helping them succeed. I get to work with people from all different walks of life. I’ve had students who were homeless all the way to students who were Vice Presidents of large companies. It’s a new experience each day and I really enjoy it.
Q: How does your experience as a driver help you as an instructor?
A: I am able to help students not just on basic skills and driving techniques, but on things like diet, posture and getting used to the different hours.
Q: What is your trademark as an instructor?
A: I am known for using analogies to help students remember things like the pre-trip inspection. I have an analogy for just about everything. I also try to make my students laugh at first. It helps break the ice and lets them relax a bit. The first day with my students I provide them with a bunch of instruction then I wean it down as time passes.
Q: What approach do you take to helping your students?
A: I have a very friendly approach. Even though it’s all about taking care of business, we have fun when time permits. I want them to know that they can approach me with any issue they might have whether it be street or range driving techniques. I care a lot about their success. Some of the other instructors have joked around with me and called me an expectant father. You see, when my students go to take the state CDL test, sometimes I will pace up and down the range until I find out if they pass or not. I meet a lot of them half way on their walk back to the school from the CDL testing site to congratulate them.
Q: How do you keep your students motivated?
A: When my students first come to me (during the range portion of training), I tell them I can give them the information they need to graduate within 1 week of that day. That’s my goal for them and I want that to be their goal as well. I track their progress on worksheets and we review this every day. They get a copy of the worksheet so they know exactly where they can improve.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: Well I also help run a DJ and karaoke business. We do events like weddings, reunions and other parties. I enjoy being the MC and getting in front of people. I’d consider myself a people person. Other than that, I really like to go camping.
Q: What tips do you have for new students?
A: Listen. Focus. Apply. Retain. We have this written all over our boards here at school. Also, don’t be thin skinned. Things aren’t always going to be easy and sometimes I can seem gruff. It’s all part of the learning process and all of the instructors here want you to succeed.
Who do you want to see win July’s Instructor of the Month contest?
Head on over to the C1 Indy Facebook and make your vote known! Comment on our timeline with the name of the instructor you think deserves to win.