Rodney Bentvelzen decided to move from industry to become an engineering, fabrication and welding teacher at Chisholm. He never looked back.

Rodney Bentvelzen loves nothing more than to see his students succeed, knowing he has played a part in that success.

Whether it’s helping apprentices to apply for financial support or going the extra mile in the classroom, Rodney is the kind of teacher who always has his students’ best interests at heart.

“I love teaching and seeing the students excel,” he says. “I think to be a good teacher you need patience, empathy and to be a good listener. It’s really important to listen to what they have to say and to sometimes read between the lines to identify when they are struggling.”

Rodney joined the metal fabrication industry when he was 15 years old. He worked in many sectors, before finding his niche in the petroleum industry doing repairs on dangerous goods and gas tankers. He eventually ended up foreman and manager of a company.

At 35, he decided to become a teacher and eventually got a job as an engineering, fabrication and welding teacher at Chisholm. “My time at Chisholm has been wonderful,” Rodney says. “I’ve gone from strength to strength here and I’ve kept very close contacts with industry as well.”

Over the years, Rodney has helped more than a dozen apprentices secure scholarships through the Caroline Chisholm Education Foundation.

One student, for example, couldn’t afford his tuition after his father had a heart attack and closed the family business. Rodney helped him apply for a scholarship and continue his studies.

Another female welding apprentice ran into financial hardship, as she was supporting two children. Rodney assisted her with the scholarship application, which allowed her to pay for fuel, childcare and tuition.

In the classroom, Rodney believes in thinking outside the box when it comes to supporting diverse students’ needs. One of his greatest achievements as a teacher was helping an illiterate apprentice who struggled with maths to fulfil his dreams.

“He was quite resistant in the beginning and I had to get him to warm up to the way we teach,” Rodney says. “He thought it would be just like high school and he’d get bullied, but it was nothing like that. I got him some help and rather than stigmatising him, I told the whole class the additional help was for everyone.”

“I’m pleased to say this person owns a fairly big fabrication business and turns over millions of dollars a year. He has gone from mum bringing him in wondering how to get him out of bed, to owning his own business, so I’m really proud of that.”

During his time at Chisholm, Rodney has also devised initiatives to enhance the learning experience, like setting up industry nights and welding competitions in collaboration with Weld Australia. In addition, he has mentored many new teachers.

It’s no wonder Rodney was a nominee for Educator of the Year at the Chisholm Education Awards – an honour he really appreciates.

When Rodney’s not busy with work, he loves spending time fishing, camping and travelling.

“I’m very happy with where my life is at,” he says. “I like being engaged with the students and making a difference to their world. It’s always rewarding having those breakthrough moments, but I find the job rewarding every day.”