Meet Chris Watt
Born in Florence, Kentucky, Chris Watt has been in the Valley of the Sun since 1980. With 25 years commercial experience in the HVAC field behind him, Chris has been an instructor at The Refrigeration School for almost two years. But he started teaching just weeks after he graduated RSI.
Is RSI your first teaching role?
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It’s my first real teaching job, but I ran training seminars during my time in the hotel industry. That’s where I spent most of my 25 years in the HVAC field. I started doing hotel maintenance, remodels, things like that. But then I got involved with the management side. I’d go to hotels and run seminars. I’d teach hotel managers, maintenance guys how to do their jobs more effectively. From accounting, to billing, to maintenance, the training really covered everything.
I’m guessing it covered some HVAC training?
Definitely. I covered preventative maintenance, not only on the big commercial units on top of the hotels, but also the PTAC units in the rooms, the thermostats, everything. Even as a manager I would still climb up on a hotel roof from time to time to fix something. It would save the owner money and make me look a little better at the same time!
Did you go to HVAC school yourself?
Not until recently. I taught myself on the job initially. I fixed electrical components and switched out motors by reading instruction manuals and following schematics. Of course I didn’t mess with the refrigerant because I wasn’t licensed, but I had a friend who was, so he would come in and help me out. But a few years back I noticed a trend in the hotel industry, a decline in employment opportunities, so it was time to change. I wanted to do something that I had a lot of experience in, so I chose HVAC.
In 2012 I enrolled in RSI to get my EPA card. About a week after I graduated in 2013, Greg offered me a teaching position. I didn’t really think he was serious, I thought it was a prank call. But he was serious because I had the experience and the qualifications…so here I am!
As a boy, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be an astronaut!
Tell me something that most people don’t know about you?
I almost became a professional bowler. The only reason I didn’t go that route was the funny clothes I saw them wearing on TV! Another thing people might not know is that I have a really bad habit of collecting almost every cheesy, comedic movie made from about 1982 to about 2001. I have about 6000 DVDs that I’ve collected over the years. The Three Amigos is one of my kids favorite movies – we watch it at least once every weekend!
Please tell us about your family.
Lydia and I got married in 2005. I have four kids, ranging from 17 years to 19 months. My eldest daughter Jasmine is technically my step-daughter, but I’ve been in her life so long I don’t even call her that anymore. Jullianna is nine years old, Ayden is five, and Alexander, the baby, was a complete and utter surprise because after Ayden was born we both got fixed!
What’s your favorite music, book and movie.
My favorite book is Stephen King’s ‘It’. The movie would be a tossup between The Three Amigos and National Lampoon’s Vacation…and when it comes to music, I’d have to go with Dr. Hook as my favorite band. I grew up listening to them with my dad. I’m a little old school. Nowadays, everybody just samples other peoples stuff, so I don’t really call it music anymore.
If you could choose to have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Probably Mel Brooks. I grew up on movies like Blazing Saddles and High Anxiety. The entertainment value of movies like that is just priceless compared to the stuff you see on TV today. I don’t really watch TV much, except for a couple of ghost hunting shows.
If you weren’t a teacher and money was no object, what would you do?
I’d open a bed and breakfast. I know the sleeping side of the business from my time in hotels. I got my culinary degree right out of high school in 1989, so I know the cooking side of it, and I could handle all the maintenance issues.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to new students who are just starting out?
Soak it all in, and ask as many questions as you possibly can. Sometimes people have that fear left over from grade school or high school of being seen to ask a dumb question, but there really is no such thing. I see it every day on students’ faces. I’ve got pretty good at prodding guys with questions to get them to ask a question. I can see the wheels spinning in their head when they don’t understand something.
I remember coming through here as a student, so I encourage them from day one to not worry about it. Even if we’ve answered something before, maybe they didn’t pick it up, maybe it was thrown at them too fast. I want them to ask the same question until they get it, because if they hear it enough it will sink in.
What’s your favorite part of the industry?
Customer service. I like making people happy. That’s one of the things I still get to do here. The students are basically my clients. Just like in the hotel industry, my job is to make sure they’re happy with what they’ve paid for so I try to give them as much as I can. Not only what I learned in the field, but things I’ve learned from other instructors who may not be here anymore.
I’ve also tried to develop what I call the ‘Barney’ way of teaching, because everybody learns differently. Some people need to read it, some people need to hear it, while some have to touch it, feel it, smell it to get it to sink in. I try to hit on all of that to help them all learn and be successful.
What’s your favorite tool?
If you were to tell one person “Thank You” for helping me become the person I am today, who would it be and what did they do?
I would have to say my Vocational Ed teacher in high school, Mr. Vasquez. He pulled me aside one time because I was having problems figuring out which direction to go. He told me to go where my heart is, otherwise I’d never be happy – I’d spend life spinning my wheels. I took that to heart. I went to culinary school out of high school, then worked in restaurants for a while before deciding it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Then I moved to the hotel industry and that made me happy for a while. Now this job makes me happy. I get to support my family, and because I work evening classes, I get to be daddy daycare with the baby. I didn’t get to do that with the other ones as much as I wanted to, so I like the freedom.
You get an unexpected afternoon to yourself, what would you do with that time?
I’d take my kids to the park and let them have fun running around.
What super power would you like to have?
Super speed! I’d like to go wherever I want and not have to drive!