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Teacher sparks student interest

Molly Shore

Brian Smith wasn’t a particularly good student when he attended

John Burroughs High School in the 1970s. He ditched classes and was

prone to self-destructive behavior until he met Barney Gantz, the


school’s auto-mechanics instructor.

“That’s when Barney had all of his hair and most of his patience,”

Smith joked.

Smith credits Gantz with turning around his life and pointing him


in a positive direction.

“The fact that he seemed to be concerned about me and how I was

doing, made me listen to him,” Smith said. “In my opinion, he kind of

took me under his wing ... and taught me that I really could make a

living and take care of myself.”

For 12 years, Smith worked in automotive repair, and although he’s

no longer in the field, he still restores classic vehicles.

Greg Thomas, a 1973 Burroughs graduate, said that tinkering with


autos was a teen hobby that turned into a life-long career after

taking auto shop with Gantz. Today, Thomas owns Greg’s Tuneup on

Victory Boulevard.

Gantz, who has taught auto shop for 35 years to high school

students and for 30 years to adult students, is retiring in June.

After that, when he and his wife are not traveling, he will be

working on his house.

“I have a ‘honey-do’ list that is longer than my list,” he said.


His career at Burroughs began in 1968.

He and fellow Cal State L.A. student David Goodlaw began their

teaching careers at Burroughs. The men had 10 periods of auto shop

with a waiting list to get into the classes.

In recent years, however, the district’s philosophy was changed to

“everybody goes to college,” and many industrial arts classes were

discontinued, he said.

“It’s a shame because [so many] do not finish college,” Gantz

said. “In automotives, there’s a career right there.”

He also keeps in touch with some of his former students when he

stops in at places where they work.

“Gantz comes into the shop every now and then to say hello and to

get parts,” said former student Reggie Roy Huitink, 50, who is a

service manager at Burbank Fuel Injection Corp.

“If not for Gantz, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today,” Huitink