Rob Foley wasn’t sure what his future had in store for him, however, when he was a teenager, he knew he wanted to work with his hands. He valued hard work, creating something, and putting your whole self into it – something that he didn’t think was possible in an office. When he was in high school, he attended an open house at the Milliken Technical Center and heard his future mentor, Mr. Nick DeBlanco, talk about the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Program.
“It just drew me in,” Rob said. He enrolled in his junior year of high school and continued studying as an adult after he graduated. After he completed his HVAC certification, he started working in the industry. He found regular work with a small firm that sent him all over Long Island; however, it was his relationship with Mr. DeBlanco that brought him back to ESBOCES.
As an adult student, Mr. DeBlanco relied on Rob to help other students. Now that he had spent some time in the industry, Rob was using his experience to help Adult Education students in the evening sessions at ICC. “I never considered teaching for a career,” Rob said, “but I found teaching fun.”
Rob moonlighted as an Adult Education teacher at night for six years, learning industry best practices that he could then share with his students. Now, a full time HVAC teacher at ICC, Rob ensures his students develop a passion for the work they do in the classroom, so they can build a career for their future.
“I try to keep learning fun and make it happy,” Rob said. “I like interacting with the students, we joke around and have conversations while we’re working.” He takes the time to talk with every student he teaches, building a strong relationship with them while they learn.
Working with the students in the Special Career Education Program is where Rob truly shines. These students generally have Individual Education Programs (IEPs), or need special accommodations when learning. The Special Career Education Program allows them to learn valuable skills that they can use for a career, in an atmosphere that works for them. “Although there are challenges, I like the smaller class size at ICC,” Rob said. “The hardest part is getting the students to stay focused. I use humor every day to keep the students engaged. I think it’s my love for this field that also helps to engage them.”
Rob knew that his future wasn’t destined for an office. Now that he works in ICC, he can help his students explore the variety of options for their futures, too.