Experience can be an excellent teacher. Just ask Chris Sawlsville. Like many young people, when he graduated from Rochelle Township High School in 2001, he didn’t know what he wanted to do. He landed a job as a laborer at Silgan Manufacturing and then unexpectedly saw his future. “That’s where I first got into industrial maintenance, hanging around the mechanics and asking questions,” he said. Over ten years later, Chris works as an Industrial Maintenance Mechanic at Clark Dietrich Building Systems and has returned to school: he takes classes in the Electronics Program at Kishwaukee College.
Chris is very typical of the students who come to Kishwaukee College in the evening: he is non- traditional (not between 18 – 24 years old), works full-time during the day, and takes classes to enhance his current employment. “In Industrial Maintenance, you have to wear all the hats – mechanic, electrician, welder, everything,” Chris explained. “My duties at Clark Dietrich include preventative maintenance on all machines as well as repairs and installing new equipment. I wasn’t very strong on the electrical side, so with the support of my plant manager, we decided it would be a good idea for me to take a few classes at Kish.”
Chris took ELE 101 – Industrial Electricity in Fall 2015 and is currently enrolled in ELE 103 – AC Electronic Circuits. His class meets on Thursday evenings in the electronics lab on campus with instructor Charles Raimondi. The class may have a 100-course number, but the students are using calculators and computers to do some challenging work. Chris noted, “I’m a strong believer that the class you take is only as good as the instructor that teaches it. Mr. Raimondi is a very exceptional instructor.”
Raimondi has been at Kishwaukee College for a almost two years and has a knack for breaking down the complex world of electronics and electricity to the incredibly useful tool it is. Chris added, “He’s not only knowledgeable about what he teaches, but also very good at explaining what you need to know.” Raimondi has worked with enough students in his seven years as a college electronics instructor that he noticed something in Chris, too. “Last year when I had Chris in my class for the first time, his attitude towards his academics was stellar,” he said. “He is constantly active in the class as well as in the labs. Chris is always looking deeper to find the answers and, during lab, he lends assistance to his classmates.”
What Chris has discovered is the close connection between the classroom and his position as an Industrial Maintenance Mechanic. He explained, “All of this is making me more knowledgeable and adding to my skill set in the work force. But, what makes this even better, is that I’m using what I learn almost immediately at work.” Raimondi is not surprised. “Chris is not the type of person who is going sit around. He is going to make opportunities come to him. He is a leader, setting a higher example for his coworkers as well as for the students in the class.”
Chris is already looking ahead. He will be taking ELE 211 – Automatic and HVAC Motor Controls in the Fall semester. “As long as there’s something more to learn and a good instructor willing to teach, I’ll be here ready to learn and hopefully excel at my job as a result of it.