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“I love working with all of the clients and animals. It really is the best job”

Jane Gray has had plenty of jobs from managing a Wendy’s to working as a dog groomer.

Today, thanks to Tidewater Community College’s Veterinary Technology program, she has a career she enjoys.

“This is where I belong,” said Gray. “I tried a distance learning vet tech program, and it didn’t work for me, but I knew I was drawn to this work.”

TCC’s Vet Tech program launched in 2018 and is the only program of its kind in Hampton Roads.

Gray is in the second cohort, which started in fall of 2019. She will graduate with an Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology this summer.

“One of the best things about the program is that we are all in this together,” said Gray of her classmates. “We are all on a group text and we lean on each other often.”

Gray recently received a scholarship from the Virginia Association of Licensed Veterinary Technicians. She is the only student in Virginia who earned this award for 2021.

Gray is already at work in the field as a supervised assistant vet tech at a Chesapeake animal hospital.

“The work I do now I can only do because of my degree program,” Gray said.

Gray started as a receptionist and is now in the back using the skills she is learning in school on the job. She does everything from assessing animals to monitoring anesthesia to placing catheters to administering drugs and IV fluids.

An animal enthusiast, Gray found her passion for the field when her own dog got sick. “My dog Socks had heartworms and I almost lost her. A year later she got a serious infection, and it was scary. It was then that I decided I wanted to be there for other families to help educate them on conditions and treatments.”

“Our pets can’t talk, so it’s important that families are fully involved in their care,” Gray added. “I love working with all of the clients and animals. It really is the best job.”

Gray’s journey to an associate degree has been challenging due to a learning disability that affects her reading comprehension. “When we went online because of the pandemic, it was really tough for me,” Gray explained. “But my instructors and classmates rallied around me and were there whenever I had questions. The college also offered some accommodations that were really helpful.”

When Gray is not at school or work, she is still surrounded by animals on her five-acre farm in Chesapeake. She and her two children care for seven horses, a donkey, some chickens, two pot-bellied pigs, a hog and five dogs.

Gray with her horse Tucker at the farm in Chesapeake.

Gray says she learned a lot from her favorite TCC instructor Megan Taliaferro who is the program head, a licensed veterinarian, and an avid horse enthusiast.

“We both love horses and talk about them often. What could be better than that!”

Live! From inside a Machine Technology lab

In this series, we provide a closer look at hands-on learning during COVID-19.

While COVID-19 means online learning for most Tidewater Community College students, some are back in the classroom for hands-on training. In fact, more than 400 sections of classes in interior design, automotive, health professions, welding, veterinary technology, culinary arts, visual arts, electronics technology and other programs have on-campus components. 

A peek inside the Precision Machining Lab

Lathes. Computer numerical control mills. Measurement tools.

Students in Rick Dyer’s machining classes are hands-on with state-of-the art equipment at the Precision Machining Lab on the Chesapeake Campus. It’s the same stuff they’ll encounter in the real world.

Students complete the lab work at their own pace for several classes, including Machine Shop Practices (Machining 161) and Cooperative Education in Machine Technology (Machining 297).

In the basic course, they learn safety procedures and master hand tools, precision measuring instruments, drill presses, cut-off saws, engine lathes, manual surface grinders, and milling machines.

Steve Toi doing precision work.

“Tonight, we’re making a motor shaft, gauge blocks and drill gauges used for sharpening drill bits,” Dyer said. “We’re thrilled to be back in the space because trying to learn online is tough. You have to see it and feel it to really do this work.”

Safety remains a priority in light of COVID-19.

 “We have plenty of room to work and we are being diligent about cleaning the machines and tools between users,” Dyer said. “We’re using a plant-based disinfectant that kills germs but also protects the equipment from corrosion.”

 Student voices

Andrew Crowe

“This is an excellent program. With my full schedule it’s very helpful to have these labs in the evenings,” said Andrew Crowe, an IT tech in the Navy, retraining for a career as a metal worker. “I’m enjoying the interactions with classmates. It gets lonely teleworking at home, so this is a great distraction, and it’s preparing me for what comes after the military.”

“In here, you’re not working on a computer screen, and what you make you have in your hand. It either works or it doesn’t,” said Chris Smith. “We’re getting excellent instruction from Mr. Dyer, who is an expert in the field.” Smith is making a motor shaft and expanding his skills so he can get into fabrication. He currently works as an electrical engineering tech for the Coast Guard.

“I love working with machinery and making things,” said J.D. Evett. “I got away from this work 20 years ago, and I’m so glad to be back into it.” Evett is working on a surface grinder making a set of gauge blocks. He transferred to TCC after his program shut down at another college due to COVID-19. He said he is grateful to continue learning to get closer to his goal.

“It’s still surprising to see the tool come to life when we cut it,” said Carter Casady, a dual-enrolled high school sophomore from Kellam High. “I’m enjoying the machining as well as actually being in a lab and talking to other people.”

Good to know

The Precision Machining Lab prepares students for work in advanced manufacturing on the seven basic machine tools: turning machines, shapers, and planers, drilling machines, milling machines, grinding machines, power saws, and presses.

The lab includes computer numerical controlled mills, lathes, and surface grinders, along with numerous manual machine tools.
The lab is used by TCC students studying Machine Technology, Mechatronics, Maritime Technologies and Engineering.

About the instructor

Program lead Rick Dyer with JD Evett.

Rick Dyer studied machining at Southeastern Regional Technical High School and completed his journeyman certification in 1981.  He served 22 years in the Navy as a machinery repairman.  After retiring, he worked for Newport News Ship Building as a planning engineer until accepting a teaching position with Norfolk Public Schools.

He studied career and technical education at Old Dominion University and holds a master’s in community college education.  He has been at TCC since 2007, teaching engineering graphics, manufacturing and mechatronics at the Chesapeake and Virginia Beach campuses. In 2019, Dyer became the program lead for the Machining Technology Program.

 Sign up

To learn more about TCC’s hands-on career and technical programs, including Machine Technology, email Dyer at or email or call 757-822-1111.