Teacher Thrives On Helping Others Start Careers

September 5, 2002
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Rob Bates (left) works with a student at Delaware Technical & Community College.
GEORGETOWN, DE — Rob Bates is an HVACR instructor at Delaware Technical & Community College. His enthusiasm for HVACR is contagious. Combined with his professional accomplishments as an HVACR educator, it’s clear why he was chosen to be a runner-up in The News’ 2002 HVACR Instructor of the Year contest.

Delaware Tech was one of the first in the country to earn Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) approval. Bates now helps evaluate other programs for the accreditation. He is the current president of the Council of Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Educators (CARE), and he has had a consistent presence at the ARI instructor workshops.

He is a member of the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), encouraging his students to pursue Certificate Member (CM) status as well as NATE-ACE certification; and he still works in the field in the summer because he enjoys it.

His program partners with the local HVACR community, actively pursues new students, and works with SkillsUSA/VICA. But Bates’ natural excitement about the good things the trade has to offer sets him apart.

A START IN TEACHING

Bates didn’t start off in the HVACR industry, although he says “I always liked doing things with my hands.”

Straight out of high school, he studied automotive mechanics at a junior college. Then he took a desk job, which pleased his father. He made friends with people who worked in HVAC, learned about their jobs, went to school to learn about HVAC, “and loved it!”

Bates first did residential and light commercial HVAC service. “There’s something new and exciting every day,” he said. “Any job is what you make it.”

Bates took his HVACR courses at Delaware Tech. “After I was in the field a few years, a former instructor called me and asked me to teach a part-time class.”

The experience was so rewarding, he took on more classes. Now he has a master’s degree in education. Teaching is “giving someone a new career,” Bates said. “You can’t ask for anything more.”

Regarding the students, “I’d rather have the guys that don’t have any training.” They are like “great big sponges,” and they don’t have bad habits to unlearn.

“Students have to learn a job” at the community college level, Bates says. “The majority are ready to go. At high school or votech classes, it’s different” — students are less enthused. “Here, it’s hard to keep them through May” — many already have job offers. “They want to get out there and get dirty.”

When it comes to attracting more students, “It’s us vs. cars,” says Bates. Identifying students earlier is a top priority. “We need to do a better job of identifying them at a younger age.”

Publication date: 09/09/2002

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