The Victorian Training Awards recognise and honour the outstanding achievements of individuals and organisations across the Victorian TAFE and training sector.
Agriculture teacher Rebecca Toleman said she was thrilled to have been named a finalist in the Teacher of the Year category.
It was her passion to mentor, teach and support future farmers that lead to Rebecca’s nomination.
Rebecca started at South West TAFE in 2018 with 10 years of farming experience, including work on both dairy and sheep farms.
Her aim to inspire the next generation of farmers has resulted in the growth of South West TAFE’s agriculture programs from 30 enrolments and two full-time teachers to 370 students and eight teachers.
She has also been instrumental in implementing innovative teaching techniques to change the way students learn calving skills. She has introduced a state-of-the-art customised Holstein birthing cow simulator into the classroom, allowing students to gain practical experience without any animal welfare concerns.
“I love what I do and I have such a passion for the agriculture industry in this region. I feel it is such a privilege to teach new students about this important industry and inspire them to find their own way in their careers in the field,” she said.
South West TAFE nursing student Caitlin Cook has also been named a finalist at the Victorian Training Awards, in the Vocational Student of the Year category.
She said she was so surprised to be nominated for the award, and could not believe she had been shortlisted as a finalist.
“I still can’t believe that I’m now a nurse and to be a finalist in this award is so exciting.
“I want my story to highlight the importance of education and to inspire other young people like myself that you can achieve anything you set your mind to,” she said.
Before studying with South West TAFE, Caitlin was a young stay-at-home mum to five children, and while she had always wanted to be a nurse she didn’t think a career in this field would ever be achievable.
She enrolled in the VCAL Young Parents Program and was quickly encouraged by her teachers to apply for the Diploma of Nursing.
During her studies she was faced with the death of her partner and illness of her mother. Throughout this time, she inspired her teachers and fellow students with her resilience and ability to excel in her studies.
She is now working as a nurse and personal care assistant and has plans to study a Bachelor or Nursing and then midwifery at Deakin University next year.
South West TAFE CEO Mark Fidge said it was so exciting to have two such strong finalists recognised for their achievements.
“Our teachers are industry experts and our students are so lucky to be learning from some of the very best in their fields.
“I find the stories of both Rebecca and Caitlin to be so inspiring. We are so proud of what they have achieved and wish them the very best in these awards,” he said.
The winners of the Victorian Training Awards will be announced at a ceremony at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on September 10.