What makes a great teacher?

Teachers play a vital role in helping to shape the lives of others. Here, one of Chisholm’s most highly regarded teachers shares his tricks of the trade.

Rodney Bentvelzen has worked as an engineering, fabrication and welding teacher at Chisholm for more than 27 years.

He is well loved by both his peers and students, often having breakthrough moments in the classroom with students with diverse learning needs.

In 2023, he was named Educator of the Year at the Chisholm Education Awards.

So, what’s Rodney’s secret to success? What sets him apart from others in his field?

Sure, he has all the necessary traits to be a good teacher – communication skills, empathy, patience and passion. But it’s more than that.

Here, Rodney explains his approach to teaching and what works for him.

Go the extra mile

Rodney says he has always risen to the challenge of taking on students who need extra care in the classroom.

“I might have a group of 16 to 18 students and there may be two or three that I have to give special attention to,” says Rodney.

“I like that challenge. I also enjoy the outcome of seeing someone who’s struggling turn their learning around and succeed.”

During his teaching career, Rodney has made some incredible progress with these kinds of students.

One of his recent highlights was when a non-verbal student suddenly started talking to Rodney.

“I somehow made him feel comfortable and receptive in his learning,” says Rodney.

“It reinforced what I was doing. It gave me the signal that my strategies of connecting were working.”

Build connection and trust

Rodney says connection is everything in the classroom.

“As a teacher, you look for that connection. You look for that engagement and that enthusiasm in the class.

“That’s what encourages the students to probe you – the teacher – further.”

Rodney says another important part of teaching is building trust.

He says to do that, you need to understand where your students are coming from.

“I began as a tradesperson myself, so I can put myself in their shoes,” says Rodney.

“I think that is key to good teaching, to be able to level yourself to their senses, their vulnerabilities and their learning abilities.”

Lead by example

Rodney says he’s a big advocate of leading by example.

“I believe in putting your best foot forward,” he says. “Even if you haven’t had a good day yourself, you need to put that aside and show enthusiasm.

“If you can lift the mood in the classroom and make it a happy place, people tend to be receptive to learning.”

Encourage students to think big

As a teacher, Rodney aims to open many different pathways to his students.

Not only does he equip them with trade skills as part of their qualification, he also encourages them to enter welding competitions, explore extra studies and reach their full potential.

“I always point out to my students that learning is life-long, and there’s so much more available to enhance their capabilities,” he says.

Be in it for the right reasons

Teaching can be an extremely rewarding career.

As a teacher, you get to make a difference in other people’s lives. You can share your love of learning and experience all sorts of rewards.

“But you have to be in it for the right reasons,” says Rodney. “Don’t follow the money trail, follow your passion.”

About Rodney

Rodney teaches Chisholm’s Certificate II in Engineering Studies and the Certificate III in Engineering – Fabrication Trade. In the past, he has also taught the Certificate IV in Engineering.