Jody Springett’s Mum’s the Word | OPINION, November 24, 2016

ONE of the problems with living in a great city like Wagga is that we can occasionally be inclined to overlook just how good our region's facilities are. I'll admit off the bat that one institution I've probably taken for granted is our TAFE. The Wagga TAFE campus, in my mind, has been perched up on the hill, quietly getting on with the job of providing training and qualifications to generation after generation of apprentices.

Of course, to be able to turn out those skilled young people, what the TAFE system needs most is skilled teachers, and as The Daily Advertiser reported this week, the excellence of two Riverina TAFE teachers is being recognised on an international level.

The pair are among a group of national experts who have been selected to mentor Australia's best young apprentices and trainees as they prepare to compete on the international stage.

Head teacher of beauty at Wagga TAFE, Naomi Zadow, and metal fabrication and welding teacher at Leeton, Craig McVittie, will help train the recently announced "Skills Squad" as they prepare to compete in the WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi next year, The DA reported.

"The 24-member Skills Squad comprises winners from the recent WorldSkills Australia National Competition. Each member will be paired with an industry expert, who will work closely with the competitor over the coming months, giving them the best chance to compete internationally," this newspaper reported.

Ms Zadow will mentor former TAFE Riverina student Lily Campbell, who won the beauty therapy category of the national competition, while Mr McVittie will work with TAFE Illawarra apprentice Brett McPaul, who took out the gold medal in construction steel work.

Speaking to The DA, Ms Zadow said she felt "really privileged and really excited" to be part of the competition.

But you know, we're lucky to have - not just in Australia, but right here in the Riverina - teachers of the caliber of Ms Zadow and Mr McVittie.

Indeed, from preschools and childcare centres to our tertiary campuses, we are blessed with so many fine educators who are committed to helping our kids get better educational outcomes.

We know the education system isn't perfect and we hear regularly about issues with the curriculum and falling standards.

Sadly too, we are also more likely to hear about the dud teachers who crop up periodically in the system than of the hard work of the vast majority of educators who are dedicating themselves to their students.

It takes a special kind of person to try to get a group of skeptical teenagers to appreciate the awesomeness of William Shakespeare or the relevance of Pythagoras in the modern world.

Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher and its importance as as profession tends to be taken for granted. Yes, we can all recall the occasional rubbish teacher we encountered at school, but I'll bet we all also had far more positive experiences with dedicated, hard-working educators who just wanted to share their passion for learning.

Three decades after I left the classroom, I can still recall the enthusiasm of my English teacher for great works like Wuthering Heights.

While I still don't particularly like the book and can't understand anyone's passion for old Heathcliff, I can truly appreciate the love for literature she was trying to convey to us as teenagers.