For Steve Orloski, teaching is a way of giving back to the system that prepared him for a successful career.
A resident of Beacon Falls for the past 18 years, Orloski teaches manufacturing at Platt Technical High School in Milford.
Faculty at Platt Tech recently honored him as the school’s Teacher of the Year.
“He’s just got a great way about him. He really connects with kids. He’s respectful to everyone. He cares about all the kids,” said Jennifer Farley, director of school counseling, who has worked with Orloski for four years.
Farley said Orloski uses different strategies in the classroom to make sure all his students learn, often teaching the same lesson in different ways.
“He really believes that all kids can achieve,” she said.
Farley added that Orloski is also an excellent communicator with a positive attitude.
“He just makes people feel very comfortable in his class like they belong there. He loves teaching and it shows through everything. The climate of his classroom is extremely positive,” she said.
Farley recalled how Orloski dressed up as Santa Claus to deliver toys to children as part of an honors society Toys for Tots program.
“Kids didn’t want to leave his side. … The kids were just crazy about him,” Farley said.
Orloski graduated from another state-run technical high school, Bullard Havens in Bridgeport. From there, he launched his career in manufacturing in the aerospace industry, where he worked on specialized tools for the production of military aircraft for 20 years.
Orloski received his teaching certification from Central Connecticut State University and has been teaching at Platt Tech for seven years.
“I just absolutely love working with young adults,” he said.
As a teacher, Orloski strives to teach students everything there is to know about the manufacturing trade so they can use the skills they learn to become financially independent, he said.
Despite the poor economy, Orloski said the demand for manufacturing is on the rise. He said companies dealing with aerospace, military and biomedical fields are doing well.
“All of the aerospace biomedical companies, which require high degrees of accuracies, are employing our students directly out of high school with high starting salaries based on their skill level,” Orloski said.
Upon leaving high school, Orloski said his students are completely independent in all aspects of the trade from basic fundamentals to advanced programming and machining.
He said the trade has evolved since he was in high school.
“Now manufacturing is very high tech, computer driven machinery and fully automated, where these machines are able to achieve close and precise tolerances in minimal amounts of time,” Orloski said.
The school, which has been operating since 1971, places students in jobs upon graduation. According to Orloski, 85 percent of his students get a manufacturing job right out of high school.
“I just want to make sure I provide opportunities for students to learn and grow as young adults and foster a positive school climate by setting high standards in trade and academic areas,” Orloski said.
Orloski’s impact on youth is also felt outside the classroom.
Orlaski coaches golf and indoor track, a program he started, at Platt Tech as well as Tri-Valley Pop Warner football and Little League baseball in Beacon Falls.
“I think he’s outstanding. He’s an athletic director’s dream,” said Sue Murphy, athletic director at Platt.
She said he has a great report with his students.
“I don’t have any worries when he’s in charge,” Murphy said.
For the past two years, Orloski organized the Platt Tech golf tournament to benefit the entire athletic program. The tournament garnered over $5,000 last year.
“Sports have always been a passion of mine. … Right now I have the best of both worlds—I can teach the trade that I enjoy so much and I can coach sports,” Orloski said.
Orloski coached the school’s first all-state track and field female athlete, Ashley Brantley, who competed in the 100 meter dash.
“My biggest professional reward to date is seeing my students and athletes reach their milestones and achieve their goals,” Orloski said.
A reward Orloski’s students are eager to give him.
“As a teacher, he always keeps the students interested and gets them to do their best work. As a coach, he challenges his athletes to improve and makes it fun,” said student Vanessa Bogus, 17, of West Haven in an e-mail.
She said Orloski’s efforts have helped her improve in track.
“Because of him, I take my work in class and track seriously,” she said.
Joe Duhaime, 17, of Milford, echoed Bogus’ sentiments.
“As a teacher, he makes connections to everyday life and every lesson is always interesting. As a coach, he provides great suggestions and words of encouragement,” Duhaime said in an email.
Both students felt Orloski is more than worthy of being named Teacher of the Year.
“He definitely deserves being the teacher of the year. He’s always looking out for students and he is always there if students need to talk or need help with anything. He’s a really fun, energetic teacher,” Bogus said.
Duhaime added, “He is the perfect choice and deserves it in every way.”
Getting into Platt Tech is not easy. About 750 students from 17 different towns applied to the school last year. Only 250 were accepted.
Freshman spend their first six months at the school exploring 15 different trade areas before picking the one they will specialize in.
Orloski said his shop has been the most popular since he’s been there.
“I hope I had something to do with it,” he said. “I try to give the students as many opportunities as I can to be successful.”