Meet the Auto Body Instructor: Michael Bonsanto

Meet the Auto Body Instructor: Michael Bonsanto

Michael Bonsanto, a collision repair instructor at Passaic County Technical Institute in Wayne, N.J., is grateful for the opportunity to repopulate the industry he loves.

Michael Bonsanto is one of the collision repair instructors at Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) located in Wayne, N.J. He began his teaching career in 2017 at 52 years old. He calls this opportunity his second chance to do something that matters for the industry he loves. 

Teaching is not new to Bonsanto, even if high school life is. He has been an active I-CAR instructor for 13 years, focusing on welding and the Hands-On Skills Development classes delivered in shops in his area. Bonsanto started his career in an auto body shop, spending 15 years there before moving on to become an appraiser and then inspector for State Farm, where he spent the next 22 years. 

A Popular Choice

PCTI is a popular choice as a high school for career technical education (CTE) programs in Passaic County. Bonsanto explained there were 3,500 kids who applied last year for 860 spots. The Automotive Collision Repair and Refinishing program has four levels. As freshmen, students spend a trimester in Automotive Collision and a trimester in Automotive Technology as exploratory options and then choose which direction to take in the third trimester. The average student count is 15 in each level, continuing from grades 9 through 12. 

This year marked the first year that PCTI is utilizing the I-CAR PDP-EE Curriculum. The school is focusing on the Non-Structural and Refinishing Level 1 programs to graduate their students as Level 1 Platinum individuals. Bonsanto notes that this will certainly be key in placing his students in quality collision facilities. 

Working Together

Bonsanto attributes his success to those around him, saying he “works with a wonderful group of people who work well together.” He also relies heavily on his advisory board, which has 15-plus participants representing repair facilities, vendors and equipment suppliers. This diverse board, his long-time tenure in the area and all of the relationships he has created throughout his career allow him to be very successful in placing students. 

PCTI utilizes a “Schools to Careers” counselor to place students. Bonsanto says he is fortunate to have a coordinator assigned to him who cares about the students’ well-being and even does shop checks after placing students to ensure the shops are a good atmosphere for them. 

Bonsanto is a big believer in SkillsUSA and was a judge long before he became a teacher. He works with his students each year to prepare them for the contest and all the opportunities that it presents. He is very proud to have produced multiple state champions in his time at PCTI. 


When asked about obstacles he faces, Bonsanto echoes what I hear from many teachers: dwindling enrollment and the challenge of finding teachers for the programs — two of the major reasons he has seen programs close in his state. 

Although Bonsanto’s school is a public high school, students from all over the county can apply to PCTI to enroll in a CTE program. Program awareness is key! Bonsanto believes that we as an industry need to get in front of middle schoolers whenever we can and continue to promote the collision repair industry. A short presentation at a local career day can go far in sparking an interest in our industry. 

A Second Chance

When he isn’t teaching high school students or active technicians in collision  repair shops, Bonsanto enjoys riding his motorcycle and what he likes to call “yard work therapy.” He has been married for 32 years and has two children. While he refers to himself as a work in progress, he’s grateful for this “second chance to do something that matters” and “repopulate the industry that he loves”.

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