“I was blessed enough to be able to be in Mr. Johnson’s National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) program. I feel that Mr. Johnson never let us get through class without working for it,” said Bethaney (Santangilo) Bowman, a 2004 Dansville High School graduate.
Bethaney grew up around cars. Her family drag raced every weekend and she was able to spend time with her dad as he worked on and built cars. The fact that Bethaney had the opportunity to take mechanical classes, including small engine and electrical instruction, as well as attend Mike Johnson’s Auto Technology program, were huge factors in her interest in the automotive field during her formative years.
“I knew I wanted to do automotive no matter what,” she said. “I feel the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. There is a great feeling you get when you fix something. No matter what else is going on in life, I can take something that is mechanically broken and fix it. It helps me have a balance and feel like there are positives in my life when I can fix something.”
In Johnson’s classroom, Bethaney and her classmates were able to do fun activities like tear apart vehicles and participate in competitions, but their instructor also expected them to complete the coursework. The competitions motivated Bethaney to work hard to learn the material needed to defeat competitors.
“In the long run, I think it helped me to continue to work for what I wanted out of life. I’ve never been given a handout and will never take one. Everything I build in my life I work for,” said Bethaney.
Bethaney met her husband Jim while earning an associate degree in Automotive Technology at the University of Northwestern Ohio. Jim had the same interest in automotive technology as Bethaney, but on the diesel side. After college Bethaney worked for ProCharger in Kansas City, Missouri, building superchargers. She also worked at Tri Star building high-performance engines. After having three kids, the pair decided they wanted to settle in Kansas City and open their own business.
In January 2017, they made their dream come to fruition by opening Gear Jammers Truck and Trailer Repair. For the first eight months Bethaney’s husband focused on servicing diesel vehicles, including semi-trucks and tow trucks, which is his area of expertise. The duo was then able to open the automotive side of the business, which Bethaney focuses on. She travels to her customers or they come to her home for general and preventative maintenance on their vehicles. In the next year the Bowmans would like to establish a shop location while continuing to provide their customers with the convenience of mobile servicing. They also plan to hire more employees. Bethaney would like to offer high performance and mechanical restoration services to her customers, as well.
Bethaney and Jim decided to open their own business because of their frustration with working for other employers. Of course, being a woman in a male-dominated industry has its struggles. From having higher productivity quotas than other workers to being made fun of in high school because her hands were always stained with grease - Bethaney has experienced it all. She has faced adversity by learning more than what was required so she was always prepared.
“In the right shop, you are treated no different, you work the same, quotas are the same, and you get the same lunch time,” she said.
Even though it has been over a decade since Bethaney was a student in Mike Johnson’s classroom, she and her husband still remain in contact with him.
“I do believe he is a teacher that truly cares about the kids he teaches and that helps him to be an exceptionally good teacher. It’s very exciting to get to tell him that I started my own business because of the foundation he helped create in me!”