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500 High Point Drive
Ventura Missionary School (VMS, K-8), is located in the beautiful foothills of Ventura. Since 1980, VMS, a ministry of Ventura Missionary Church, has provided a supportive, nurturing, non-denominational Christian environment where academic excellence is pursue... more.
Good Turns Driving School
Ventura County Star: Lifestyle
Earl Wiggins, of Ventura, goes on one last outing as a driving instructor, teaching Jody Herrera, 16, of Oxnard, before letting his DMV teacher's certification expire Monday.When Earl Wiggins says he's been around the block a few times, he really means it. A little from age perhaps, but mostly it's from his job.Wiggins has seen many city blocks, left turns and parallel parks as a driver's education instructor over the past half century.Most of those years have been in Ventura County, first at Fillmore High School, then at Buena High School in Ventura and for the past 12 years at his own business, Wiggins' Good Turns Driving School, based in Ventura. Wiggins estimates he's given some 14,000 people behind-the-wheel lessons since he started doing it in 1953 while he was in college in Pennsylvania. Now he's shutting off the teacher's ignition.Wiggins gave his last driving lesson Friday; his DMV teacher's certification officially expired Monday after he opted not to renew it. "I'm giving it up because they are going a little fast and I'm getting a little slow," Wiggins, 68, said."I'm smart enough to know that you have to know your limits." He's used to hearing he's taught driving to two generations of the same Ventura County family.But three is something else. "Recently in Fillmore, I heard someone say, 'You taught my granddad, too,' " Wiggins said."That was a shocker.I thought, 'My goodness, I've gotta quit.' " During a two-hour lesson late last week, Wiggins dispensed years of wisdom riding shotgun in a white Toyota Corolla, a set of brakes at his feet. He was calm, the voice genial, the talk folksy and almost stream-of-consciousness as situations arose -- a crossing guard, a dog in the street, a steep uphill angle at a stop sign on Poli Street. "Left foot on the brake," he said. Wiggins told her to put her right foot on the gas, gently but firmly."Hear that?You want to keep a steady purr on the accelerator," he said.A yellow lasts just three seconds, Wiggins told her, then asked, "You're not color-blind, are you?" "No," a scowling Herrera said in faint protest. "That's illegal, but don't get mad at him," Wiggins advised. As Herrera rolled into Meiners Oaks, Wiggins told stories, not to show off his oratory skills but as a test. "You scared me the first day, but you're better now," Wiggins told her."I like what I see." On his last day, Wiggins had Herrera drive up hills near the Two Trees landmark.He later bought her an ice cream cone and seemed "kind of sad" about his retirement, Herrera said. "He's a funny character," she said."He's really talkative.He's a good instructor; he knows his stuff.He has a lot of trust in his students." Wiggins grew up in Pennsylvania and began his steering-wheel odyssey in 1953, teaching driving while attending Millersville University, which then was primarily a teachers' college. After a six-month stint in the Army, Wiggins came west in response to his wife, Phyllis, who said she wanted to travel.When she got a job as a physical education teacher in Fillmore, he also set up shop there. He taught driver's ed at Fillmore High from 1958-65 and at Buena High from 1965-80.Wiggins then took a break and became a pastor at Ventura Missionary Church.But the teacher's bug bit again, and he started the Good Turns Driving School in 1990. Wiggins believes he's only been in three accidents in his entire teaching career.One occurred when a girl in Fillmore backed into a tree after the car rolled down a hill.It wasn't her fault, he said; the brakes failed, hers and his. Wiggins credits his religious strength for his ability to deal with bad driving and close calls. For the record, the pro has received two traffic tickets in his life.The first was for running a stop sign in Pennsylvania, before he became an instructor.The second occurred years ago on old Telegraph Road between Ventura and Santa Paula, for an illegal pass that Wiggins still disputes years later. "I got mouthy," he recalled with a smile."I told him that I taught driving." It didn't help; he still got written up. By then, Earl will be spending more time with his wife.They've been married 45 years, many of them amid his odd teaching hours of early morning and evenings. "It disrupted our eating habits," Phyllis said with a laugh.The couple have six children, all of whom were on hand for a retirement open house the Wigginses hosted Sunday. Earl said he'll miss it all -- telling people to put their hands in the 10-2 position, driving around cones in empty parking lots, other little things. "I loved that job," he said."It's what I did best."
Dr. Earl Wiggins is teacher.