History of Driver’s Education at TAHS
The TASD Driver’s Education program is one of the oldest in the country, having been started not long after the first program opened in St. College, PA in February 1934.
Early instructors took the students out driving during the day and they worked with adults after school and in the evenings. The test examiners were originally state troopers assigned to what was considered by many to be a problematic assignment. It looks much different today, however, the purpose of the course has remained the same over the years - to teach students to be responsible drivers.
The textbook names tell us a lot about how views of driving have changed over the years. The earliest textbook was called “Sportsmanship Driving,” while today students use “Responsible Driving.” Driving instruction included classroom visual aids and the latest technology from the earliest years of Driver’s Education. The instructors have always tried to provide “cutting edge” teaching strategies and technology to reach their students. For instance, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, students sat at a desk with a brake pedal. When given a visual cue, the student had to apply the brake. The purpose was to measure reaction time. Instructors also used steel boards with magnetic vehicles and settings to demonstrate different driving scenarios at the front of the class. The instructors have always taken pride in their techniques and ability to reach their students. Tyrone’s driver’s education instructors have included: Jack Gorman, Max Kimmel, Jerry Wiser, George Czap, Paul Matusky, Pete Dutrow, Robert Perry, John Linder, Jim Butler, Rob Walter, John Rossman, Scott Bouslough and Cummins McNitt.
Over the years the school has used the services of area businesses to provide the automobiles used in Drivers’ Education: Rupert’s Chevrolet, Spangler’s Ford, Nelson’s GM, and Day Fleet Sales from Pittsburgh. The cars have always been equipped with instructor-side foot brakes.
Early driving classes often used shock and scare tactics, particularly through films, which were often shown just before proms. Instructors did this to scare the kids into “driving right,” at least for one night. This practice continued through the 1970’s. In the 1980’s and 1990’s instructors used an information-centered approach, using scientific studies and research to show the use and value of good driving habits. Today Driver’s Education is continuing this tradition by offering new and creative ways to reach our students. While science and research continue to provide the students and teacher with valuable content knowledge, technology continues to enable the teacher to reach students using tools familiar to students and families alike. We also use impairment goggles, field sobriety tests and Wii activities in the classroom. The Tyrone Area High School has just revamped the website for Driver’s Education students and families. The district homepage can be accessed through: www.tyrone.k12.pa.us by choosing the high school page, clicking on “Staff Pages” and selecting McNitt.
The new website assists students by providing classroom resources at home or anywhere outside the classroom. Should a student lose an assignment it is now easy to print a copy from home. Students can communicate with their teacher through the Remind App, email, and by stopping by the classroom. The website provides useful links to other important information: course syllabus, PennDOT teen driver forms and information, parallel parking tips, steps to getting your license, class work, teacher notes, and links to projects.
The Tyrone Renaissance Education Foundation provided a grant to help purchase a Wii system, video game, 4 steering wheels and controllers, as well as “beer goggles.” While wearing “beer or impairment goggles” the students walk to their “cars” following a designated taped walkway, and while using the Wii simulation, will be asked to text one another and take cell phone calls. Students soon learn that DWI and driving while distracted are dangerous and difficult tasks to manage.
Students are also required to complete a portfolio that requires the student to complete artifacts that deal with many aspects of driving, such as rural routes and expressways, weather conditions, signs and pavement markings, and personal factors of driving. Students must complete several traffic intersection surveys addressing seatbelt using, stopping/signaling. All of these elements are designed to put better drivers on the highways today and tomorrow.
The Tyrone Area School District continues to serve the Tyrone area students and community by offering progressive educational opportunities that empower students to be responsible citizens and life-long learners in our democracy and global society.
This article was made possible through interviews with Jack Gorman, Robert Perry, Pete Dutrow and Cummins McNitt.
Known List of Driver’s Education Instructors at TASD. If you can help us fill in this list please contact the TAHS Driver’s Education Staff. A number of these are best guesstimates, so please feel free to set us straight!
Cummins McNitt 2010 – 2024
Scott Bouslough 2013 – 2024
Rob Walter 2000 – 2010
John Rossman 2000 – 2010