Recognized for his outstanding leadership and dedication to his students at Norfolk Technical Center in Virginia, Anthony Bertolino was named the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors—National Association’s (PHCC’s) 2021 Plumbing Instructor of the Year. The award – sponsored by PHCC Corporate Partner Milwaukee Tool – was presented this week during PHCCCONNECT2021, the association’s annual conference, held in Kansas City, Missouri.
“The instructors in the p-h-c field play a crucial role in developing tomorrow’s workers,” said 2020-2021 PHCC President Hunter Botto during the award presentation. “We are fortunate to have high-caliber men and women who devote their time – both on and off the clock – to prepare students for rewarding careers in our industry.”
Bertolino is “an exceptional teacher and role model for his students,” added Botto. In addition to running Bertolino Plumbing & Heating in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with this brother, he teaches all four years of plumbing apprenticeship at Norfolk Technical Center. He has dramatically improved both the retention rate for each class and the number of students, and his program is one of the largest in Virginia.
Ironically, Bertolino did not originally plan to become a plumber but rather study business in college and become a floor trader in New York City. After his father, a licensed plumbing contractor, explained the expenses involved with that plan, however, Bertolino considered plumbing. He enrolled in an apprenticeship program, earned his journeyman’s license, and – less than two years later – received his masters’ licenses.
This is one of the first stories Bertolino shares with his students. “I tell them that I have no student debt; I own my own business; and I really enjoy what I do,” he said. “I also tell them how much I have learned and that this is the career I chose.”
As an instructor, Bertolino’s effectiveness is more than charisma and straight talk, however. He incorporates the Montessori method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play. He engages students by sharing examples of his own on-the-job challenges and encourages them to discuss their work experiences to help advance the entire class.
“Tony’s students know that he expects them to apply their classroom knowledge to the day-to-day work and that licensure is the mark of professionalism,” Botto said during the award presentation. “He reminds them of the importance of plumbing to the health and safety of the nation.”
Bertolino’s connection with his students doesn’t end when their apprenticeships are completed; he stays in touch with many of them for years and keeps a collection of stories about the good things they have done in the trade. PHCC and Milwaukee Tool proudly recognized Bertolino’s ongoing commitment to these young professionals with this Plumbing Instructor of the Year award.