James Roelofs is an IT support officer at Esperance Senior High School. He expertly manages the school’s complex network of PCs, tablets and high-end software, yet his greatest achievements are much more impressive.
“I wanted to work in education because it’s a good way to build up, encourage and eventually enable young people to stand on their feet and continue into adulthood,” Mr Roelofs says.
And enable he does. While Mr Roelofs isn’t a member of the teaching staff, he has instigated an ICT club for students which he runs for one period a week. The first one was for PC enthusiasts where students completed small maintenance jobs on PCs around the school while learning valuable skills.
Library and ICT coordinator Hillary Duffy said it was Mr Roelofs who recognised the potential value in employing students from the club as junior computer technicians at the school.
“The club gave him the opportunity to see which students might be suitable for casual after-school work,” she says.
“The most important trait that Mr Roelofs looks for in students is not their ICT skills, but integrity.
“The junior technicians are now part of our ICT maintenance team and we employ students for after-school work four days a week.”
Doing everything from hardware and software maintenance, and looking after computers and printers, Mr Roelofs provides students with guidance and manages their workloads.
“One of our junior technicians went on to study computer science at university and is now a computer engineer for IBM!” Ms Duffy says.
“Mr Roelofs is highly imaginative and resourceful.”
He has created and implemented many computer programs to streamline and automate student services, incorporate tablet computers in classrooms, and reduce electricity bills.
His innovative solutions, particularly around student services, have been sought after by many other schools.
“A great moment for me is when I have been playing a part in solving a long-standing issue, particularly one affecting many people or schools, and it is finally solved. When a lot of people will be helped as a result, and all the effort pays off, it’s awesome,” Mr Roelofs says.
As with his junior technician initiative, Mr Roelofs is keen to support and develop students’ wellbeing and opportunities for the future.
“I hope that students I work with learn from me that all people have value and worth in simply existing, regardless of achievement or failure,” he says.
“I would describe myself as empathetic, enthusiastic, optimistic and – ever trying to be – generous.”