Teaching at Tiffin’s

Retired educators find their calling in a MUCH bigger classroom

Tiffin Motorhomes tour leader Brenda Hall is framed through a piece of equipment in the plant as she leads a tour through the factory. News photos/Jason Collum

There is an old adage that says, “you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher.” Brenda Hall, Harold Entrekin and Jeannette Pearson are proving that adage true every day.

The three former Red Bay High School teachers have found a new classroom to teach in, and this one is far bigger than what they were used to across town. They now lead daily tours at Tiffin Motorhomes. It is a job that each says is an extremely rewarding experience, primarily because of the opportunity to meet so many different people.

Every weekday at 9:30 a.m. tours of the sprawling motor home factory kick off in the visitor reception center at the plant’s entrance on Second Street Southwest.  Usually the teachers see anywhere from 15 to 30 visitors a day for tours. Sometimes if the crowd is large enough they do two tours.

The tour starts with an introductory video about the history and philosophy of Tiffin Motorhomes. On this day, Hall took the lead in kicking off the tour. However, in true teacher fashion, a video wasn’t enough. She quickly explained to the crowd of 2o or so that she was a former history teacher, she loved to talk, and that they would learn more than just about motor homes during the tour. True to her word, Hall gave visitors a brief historical overview of the Red Bay area and through her excellent story-telling explained how the company came into being and the history behind the buildings and location of the plant. The historical references would also crop up later in the tour.

But they each do that. It’s part of what makes the factory tour unique.

“We tell them a little history, how the town got started and how Tiffin’s got started,” Pearson said. “We also tell them about the area, and about some of the attractions.”

Tiffin Motorhomes tour guide Harold Entrekin, right, discusses a cabinet door frame and the construction processes with plant visitors.

Second first day of school

Floyd Davis and Floyd Paden were the pioneers of the tour program at Tiffins. Later, an opportunity arose for Hall to lead tours, and she jumped at the chance when Jerry Williamson guaged her interest. Upon learning of the program, Entrekin told Hall he would love to be a tour guide as well and to let him know if an opportunity ever arose. Pearson and Entrekin became tour guides at the same time in 2012.

“I told Brenda when she got this job and I was planning on retiring that I wished I could luck up on a job like this after I retired,” Entrekin said. Just before he retired, Hall let Entrekin know an opportunity did exist, and after meeting with Williamson, Entrekin joined the team.

Entrekin said he doesn’t really see this job as a teaching role, even though that technically is what a tour guide does.

“You’re not really teaching for a grade,” Entrekin said. 

 “It’s totally different here. We don’t have any discipline problems,” Pearson said jokingly about how teaching on the tours differed from her previous job. All jokes aside, she said having been a teacher in the school setting made this transition easy.

“Being a teacher, you don’t have any fear of speaking in front of people,” Pearson said. “You’ve basically talked all your life.”

Each tour guide has to be familiar with the workings and layout of the plant, and that poses a challenge as things don’t stay the same.

“We have to adapt the tour when things change,” Hall said.

Entrekin agreed, noting that within the last year the tour has changed in that visitors no longer get to see the chassis department since it moved a decent distance away from where it had been located. And, when it does change, they just have to work around it and learn how to give visitors the best tour possible.

Floyd Paden, center, was one of the first tour guides at the factory and each of the other guides – from left, Entrekin Brenda Hall and Jeanette Pearson – each hold a great deal of respect for him and his knowledge and leadership.

What they love the most

All three teachers agreed that they have a favorite part of the tour: meeting the people who visit the factory.

“We meet people from all walks of life,” Pearson said. 

“We’ve had people from Australia and several European nations come through here,” Hall said. “Honestly, that is my favorite part, to see how these people from around this country and the world come here to Red Bay, Alabama., and it’s Tiffin Motor Homes that draws them here.”