DCIT teacher uses love of art to help prepare students for their future

By Melissa Rollins, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

When students take classes at the Darlington County Institute of Technology (DCIT) they are learning firsthand from professionals who have worked in the industries they are teaching about. Eric Tew made the jump recently from the professional world to the classroom, bringing with him more than two decades of experience.

“I worked in the industry for 26 years with Southern Graphics Systems; before that it was Advanced Printing Products,” Tew said. “It is a local company in McBee, a flexographic print making facility. They made flexographic printing plates. I worked in the graphics department.”

Tew got his degree from Coker College, landing an internship and eventually a full-time job in the process.
“I got a graphic design degree from Coker College in 1995,” Tew said. “I started working for the company while I was still in college. I started off as an intern and they offered me a job to get me to stay. I transferred with my wife and two kids to Virginia and then we moved back here in 2005.”

Tew said that a co-worker heard about the possibility of an opening at DCIT and told him that he should apply since he was often ‘teaching’ others at work anyway. He wasn’t sure that the job change was feasible at first but eventually decided to interview for the position once it was available.

“I had had feelers out for a long time in the industry looking for something new that would be a little more challenging,” Tew said. “I came up here and interviewed and I thought everything went really well, they showed me around the room and all of the equipment. At the end they said ‘We’ll be in touch’…and then three months go by; I didn’t think I’d hear from them again.”

After a long three months Tew was offered, and accepted, the job to be the new graphics teacher. He said that every day has been a learning experience, after taking over a classroom from someone who had been teaching for several decades.

“It is almost like being a kid in a candy shop with a thousand drawers and someone asks for licorice,” Tew joked. “Is it in this draw? Is it in this draw? Once I find it I try to store that away in my memory so I can find it next time we need it.”

He teaches two classes, Graphics I and Graphics II, which are similar but vary in their degree of difficulty. Before jumping into graphics though, Tew decided to start each semester with something basic but important: a resume.

“The first thing that we do with everybody is we do a resume,” Tew said. “They’ll have a copy of the first resume that they did and at the end of the year they’ll update it and add everything that we’ve done that they didn’t know how to do before. I want them to have a concrete way to see that they’ve learned something in the class. I was a sophomore in college looking to get an internship before I ever did my first resume. We try to do things in class and at DCIT so that they can get a job or use the skills that they are learning here at a job.”

Tew said that because each project is new to him, whichever one they are currently working on becomes his favorite. They’ve done screen-printing, creating graphics for personalized coffee mugs and even a self-portrait. The classes are hands-on but sometimes, Tew said, he has to be hands-off and let the students figure things out for themselves.

“For most of the projects, I helped the kids,” Tew said. “For one though, I told them it was a do-it-yourself. It didn’t matter what it was, as long as they figured it out on their own. They had to show me what they learned by watching a tutorial video on the internet. One kid actually showed me something so simple but I had been doing it the hard way for over 20 years; to me, that was a learning experience. I have no idea when it became that easy but I had been doing it the hardest way possible and I felt dumb. Here was something I had been doing everyday at work. She was happy because she got to show me something I didn’t know.”

Tew said that he has enjoyed teaching so far and is happy to continue to do something that he enjoys: creating.

“I’ve always been an artist; I’ve always drawn,” Tew said. “My dad basically said that I needed to figure out a way to use my passion to make money and that’s what I did.”

Author: Duane Childers

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