Falmouth driver's ed school focuses on fun, responsibility

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FALMOUTH — It may seem like quite a leap from a background as an improvisational comedian to a driver’s education instructor, but Tony Vine says the distance between the two isn’t as far as it seems.

Vine recently opened IndieDriver Educational Services in the Falmouth Shopping Center and said teaching people to drive is all about engagement – a skill he learned studying improv and leading summer day camps for years.

“We strive to make (the course) interactive and enjoyable,” Vine said this week. “In the classroom we want the students to do the majority of the teaching and leading. We feel that helps create questions, which then leads to conversation, which is the best way to learn.”

Vine and his wife, Kim, started the school because they both “love teaching and leading young people and we view drivers education as an important, but undervalued life skill,” he said.

In addition, Vine was looking for a career change and “after listening to teenagers who had recently taken driver’s education classes, (we) got the idea that we could deliver that information in a fun, interactive and supportive style that would generate independently thinking drivers.”

Vine said the goal at IndieDriver is to “effectively communicate the skills and understanding needed to build the foundation for confident and road-ready drivers.”

Vine, who is president of the Maine Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association, said the state has very strict requirements for becoming a driver’s ed instructor.

“You must take approved college-level courses in teaching methods, including teaching driver’s education, pass both written and behind-the-wheel tests, and criminal background checks,” Vine said.

The Vines live in Cumberland and met when they were running summer camps for kids in west Los Angeles. During that time Vine also directed an improv group at UCLA and was studying improv with the Groundlings Theater in Hollywood.

The couple made what Vine called “a quality-of-life move” to Maine in 1998. He was then hired as the director of external programs at an independent school near Boston and commuted there for years.

After deciding to start their driver’s ed school, Vine said he and his wife spent a lot of time “searching for the right community in which to begin operations. The right space and the placement of the Falmouth Shopping Center on Route 1 all clicked.”

What Vine said he most enjoys about teaching kids to drive is “that moment when the student suddenly gets it. Nothing beats seeing their smile of accomplishment and pride in success.”

He said the most important skills for a good driver are “confidence, decisiveness, caution and patience. I asked this question to a student and they added humility, which we like.”

So far, Vine said, the response to IndieDriver has been positive, with “very strong word-of-mouth endorsements” from participating families.

Vine said being able to drive provides freedom, but “with that freedom comes enormous responsibility. When we are out on the road with students we are continually pointing out the errors of experienced drivers.”

While Vine takes his job seriously and expects his students to as well, he said the process should still be fun.

“If you’re laughing,” Vine said, “you’re probably learning.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Tony Vine, of Cumberland, has opened a new driver’s ed school in Falmouth called IndieDriver.