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Angie Wieck, Published June 03 2012

It's My Job: Driving instructor helps teens earn their licenses

MOORHEAD – Janelle Edner says her friends thought it was pretty funny when she found work as a driving instructor. Edner admits she has always been that passenger with her foot on an imaginary brake asking, “Why don’t you just let me drive?”

Edner has made good use of those instincts the past four years as a driving instructor for Let’s Get Rolling Driving School in Moorhead. She recently talked about how she became an instructor and what it’s like to teach teens the rules of the road.

Q. What type of certification or training is needed in order to become a driving instructor?

For behind the wheel (certification), I had to retake the permit and driving tests at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Moorhead. I also had to take a lengthy written exam.

Once I did that, I had to meet and spend two hours driving around with the director of the Department of Public Safety. One hour I acted as though I was the instructor. During the other hour, I answered questions and was evaluated on my driving. It’s the director’s final say as to whether you pass.

Do you teach both in the classroom and behind the wheel?

I started doing just behind the wheel, but after a year I also started classroom instruction. … In order to teach classroom, I had to sit in on a bunch of classes while assisting the teacher.

Then I was videotaped teaching a class that was sent to the director of the DPS. He again decides whether someone passes.

Does your car come equipped with a brake and a steering wheel on your side?

It does come with a brake. No steering wheel. There are days I’d even like a gas pedal.

Each instructor probably has their own level of comfort as far as how often they use the brake or what would cause them to use the brake. … There have been some close calls. Some on the students’ part, but a lot of times it’s other drivers.

Have you ever been in an accident with a student?

In my years here, only just a few minor things. We’ve never had a big collision. They do hit the curb a lot. That seems to be the most common.

What do you do to calm students’ nerves?

The more relaxed the instructor is, the calmer the student is. When they realize that we’re not going to necessarily respond to things the way that Mom and Dad do, that helps calm them. We have a great advantage over Mom and Dad. We have that brake. That does give you some sense of control.

My son recently got his driver’s license. And, I tell you, there is a world of difference. I was a wreck teaching him to drive in our own car where I have no control whatsoever.

What are some of the challenges to doing your job?

Being patient can be a real challenge. It doesn’t happen too often, but every once in a while we do get attitude, too. I don’t see it as much behind the wheel as in the classroom. … They’ve been in school all day long and then come spend three hours in class here. Sometimes it’s hard to rein them in.

What do you like best about your job?

It is actually really fun. I think that would be surprising to a lot of people. It is really fun to see all the kids and talk with them. You have two hours in the car together. You get to know them. They get to know you. … I often run into former students when I’m someplace like a restaurant or the grocery store, and they’ll run up to me and say “I got my permit!” or “I got my license!” and they’re so excited. That’s fun.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501