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Students tuned up for the real world

By Kristie Kellahan

An automotive teacher at TAFE knows how to put ambition into gear, writes Kristie Kellahan.

Bob Badewitz says TAFE teaching is more than a job, it's a vocation. A teacher in the light vehicles automotive department at South Western Sydney Institute's Wetherill Park College, Badewitz has the opportunity to prepare students for rewarding careers with hands-on skills and real-life experience.

"One of the highlights of teaching automotive at Wetherill Park TAFE is being exposed to students from a diverse range of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds," he says.

The job has its challenges, most notably teaching students with learning and language difficulties.

"We are constantly required to adapt and modify our teaching, and assessing strategies in order to relay the information and skills that students require in our trades."

Badewitz says the lows come when students with low self-esteem or insurmountable challenges leave the trade. The highs come when those students can be encouraged to stay and achieve their goals.

"As a teacher, it is especially pleasing when we are able to help these students become qualified tradespersons," he says. "For those who are thinking of becoming a TAFE teacher, all I can say is that it's more than a job.

"Students always accomplish more when they receive positive encouragement, especially as many of our students lack self-confidence.

"As their confidence grows, so does their ability, and as a teacher, one of the most rewarding things is to watch their abilities flourish."

Badewitz says one of his students, Steven Smolkowicz, is an example of a student who makes the job worthwhile. "Over the years that I have been fortunate enough to teach Steve, I found him to be a standout student," Badewitz says. "He is the type of student who excels in any area in which you test him.

"Steve is passionate about his trade and is always keen to help out his fellow classmates so that during group projects I have often teamed him up with other students who tend to struggle. Steve's positive demeanour is quite contagious and encourages his peers to achieve."

Badewitz recently nominated Smolkowicz for the Snap-on Tools Apprentice of the Year, an award that recognises Australia's best automotive apprentice. Smolkowicz was crowned winner and will receive $11,000 worth of custom tools and VIP tickets to next year's Summernats. "Bob has extensive knowledge of the trade and is always willing to go the extra mile with students," Smolkowicz says.

"He motivates them to reach their highest potential with his method of teaching, which is also very engaging and makes you feel comfortable in the classroom."

Smolkowicz encourages other students to choose a TAFE course.

"Choose a job that you have a passion for and stick with it no matter how difficult it is," he says. "By working hard and going above and beyond, you'll reap the rewards down the track."

Published: 03 November 2012

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