Gary Jackson: Teaching Integrity

Past events have shown the importance of well-trained operators who are focused on the integrity of their systems, according to Gary Jackson, senior technical trainer at SOS Intl. “It is paramount that operators have a full understanding of how the electric power system operates and how their system impacts other systems.  It is only with this understanding that they can operate their system as reliably as possible to help ensure the integrity of the Bulk Electric System of North America.”

Jackson presents an exam preparation course for NERC certification at SOS. He brings integrity to his classroom in the knowledge and experience he shares. He has spent 40 years learning and implementing power system operations and regulations at large and diverse energy organizations such as Orlando Utilities Commission, Calpine Corporation and Colorado Springs Utilities. His background and experience from the operator level gives insight to, and in-depth knowledge of actual day-to-day functions meeting or exceeding regulatory requirements.

At SOS, Jackson is an energetic trainer offering students an in-depth knowledge of NERC Certification Exam Preparation and compliance. His understanding and interpretation of system reliability, applications of standards and regulations, emergency operations and restoration offers students an opportunity to effectively prepare for NERC examinations.

“The position of power system operator is a unique position,” Jackson said.  “System operators must be prepared to correctly respond to events that may never occur during their career. The opportunity to experience these unique events and learn by dealing with them is rare. As the saying goes, the job is 90% routine and 10% chaos. The training we provide helps fill the gap between routine and chaos to improve operator readiness if such unique events occur.”

Jackson understands the training needs of clients because he has held numerous positions in the electric power industry. He started as an electric power plant operator in 1973, and in 1983, decided he wanted to pursue a position as a power system operator. He transferred to Power Dispatching, now known as System Operations.

“The main reason I pursued this position was the exciting challenge and opportunities it offered. The position of System Operator enables you to experience all aspects of the Bulk Electric System,” Jackson said.

Jackson has also instructed students in voltage control, system protection, power system fundamentals, and effective communication skills. In the near future he will be teaching a course titled “Introduction to Power System Operations,” which is an in-depth overview of the operation of the power grid of North America.

Jackson also shared his philosophy on teaching with T&D World:

To be a successful trainer, many things are important-

  • The Instructor must ensure the classroom experience is fun and enjoyable while at the same time stressing the importance of learning the material.
  • The Instructor must be an expert on the subject they are presenting. The Instructor must be prepared to respond to questions that may not be exactly in line with the current topic. This gives the students a feeling that the Instructor is not merely a messenger but also a mentor.
  • The Instructor must engage all the students.
  • Including the students in discussions and encouraging participation is critical.
  • Large classes, say 20 or more students, are more challenging because it is easier for students to “hide” in the crowd.  It is important to move around the class during lecture to ensure all the students are focused.  Eye contact during lecture provides assurance to the students that you are talking to each of them, not just at the class.  This provides a more personal relationship between Instructor and student.  A good Instructor will use their presentation as merely a guide.  There is nothing more boring than listing to an Instructor “read” PowerPoint slides.
  • When an Instructor is giving examples or discussing situations, he or she should try to use the students as role players. The students should be referred to by their first name.  This will give the students a feeling of involvement.
  • Instructors should be able to read the faces of the students.  A good Instructor can see a question in the student’s facial expressions and behaviors.  If the Instructor “sees” a question or concern in a student’s face they should ask the student if they have a question or an issue with the material being discussed.  Students are more likely to ask questions if they feel comfortable doing so.  The Instructor may have to “help” a student ask their question by encouragement.
  • Many times Instructors are faced with a student or students who try to overpower or argue with the Instructor.  This can cause disruption if the Instructor allows it to continue. The Instructor should never become defensive or argumentative if a student disagrees with him or her. This is unprofessional and will cause the Instructor to lose the respect of the students. If a student makes a statement that is incorrect the Instructor should not respond with “that’s wrong” but rather encourage the student to look at the issue from another point of view.  If needed, a discussion about their behavior should take place during breaks in a private setting.


 

 

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