Be a Mentor a New Year's Resolution

To be a mentor — which in my opinion is synonymous with being a teacher — is frequently taken lightly. Just how important mentoring is hit home for me recently when my younger daughter retold a frustrating experience about one of her professors at the university she attends.

Mind you, I realize there are three sides to every story, as my mother-in-law used to say: my version, your version, and the real truth in the middle. But if the tale my daughter recounted was even halfway accurate, then I can only imagine the damage this professor — or any other teacher like him — has caused, let alone the negative attitudes the teacher has inspired over the years among hundreds of other students.

Many of us likely have encountered a bad teacher (I even remember their names!) and still survived. But how difficult is it to expend the effort to culture a positive attitude in a young and very impressionable mind? It can even be fun!

While hearing my daughter's depressing news in one ear, I almost simultaneously received uplifting news in the other ear about our local public high school where my husband teaches. Taft High School was named #1 in the country for the number of students that have tested and achieved MOS (Microsoft Office Specialist) certification. I know for a fact that the kids were inspired and encouraged by their teachers to attain this praiseworthy achievement. So I commend not just the students but also the teachers for their hard work, because with this certification in hand, students can graduate with the potential for landing a job straight out of high school — something that ought to be a goal of every secondary school system.

While none of the local Chicago newspapers picked up on this news — not even our mayor or city school board president attended a special ceremony to honor the 285 students — such an achievement is worthy of notice, and the students should be proud of their accomplishment. One day these students may be under your tutelage. Be firm with them, but be instructive and helpful. They are our future.

While some might argue that negative experiences may prepare a person equally as well for the workplace by teaching the student how not to perform a job, whether it's on the production line or in a managerial function, it's certainly not the best way to learn. And so I applaud the new educational initiative the Assn. of Industrial Metallizers, Coaters & Laminators (AIMCAL) is undertaking for members of the converting industry.

A series of 19 sessions will focus on productivity enhancement within a framework of six courses, including Coating Solution Process Technology; Extrusion Coating; Web Coating & Drying; Web Handling & Converting; Web Processing for Barrier; and Winding: Machines, Mechanics & Measurements. Engineers and other skilled converting professionals will benefit from the classes taught by technical experts on theory along with real-world problem solving. Classes will be held in the US, Europe, and India, and AIMCAL executive director Craig Sheppard says, “Students also will take home ideas for profit-boosting strategies related to process optimization and waste reduction, as well as higher, more consistent product quality and new product development.”

AIMCAL has taken to heart the call to mentor its own members by also awarding a first-time presenter at its annual technical meeting with the John Matteucci Technical Excellence Award to Jay Tannan of Pruftechnik Service Inc. The paper on which his presentation was based is included this month on p42. For someone who seemed so young, I couldn't help asking if he had experience presenting to such a large audience before winning this award. He admitted it was somewhat limited, but he also felt he had inspiration from a professor at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison as a mentor.

As for my daughter's bad experience, I reminded her that when she ultimately graduates and finds a job this coming fall (with luck), hopefully she'll encounter kinder “teachers” in her chosen profession, such as this month's “Experience Speaks” columnist Lyle Reigel, who feels responsible as an employer for many families in his community. He has wisdom from which we can all learn.

My friends call me…

Who is your mentor and why? Write to me at yolanda.simonsis@penton.com.


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