A Churchill man and TAFE Gippsland teacher who walked 60km in one day to inspire his students is the winner of the third annual ‘Step Up Professional Development Award’.

David Wakefield, who describes himself as a “passionate educator”, works hard to help re-engage youth from across the Latrobe Valley with education to achieve their Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) at TAFE Gippsland’s Morwell campus.

Not one to settle for standard teaching methods, David is always looking for new ways to motivate his students and believes his actions outside the classroom are just as important as those in it.

His big walk aimed to show students he was willing to do hard work like he asked of them through their studies.

“I walked from Churchill to Morwell; Morwell to Thorpdale; Thorpdale to Mirboo North; and the Mirboo North to Boolarra along the rail trail,” David said.

“No training – I just started walking.

“I messed my feet up so bad that I had to teach in slippers for a week. I was hobbling along in my suit, tie and slippers, but it was worth it. When the kids asked, ‘what have you done?’ I told them ‘I’m willing to step up and push myself like I’m asking you to do’.

“I decided a few years ago that I didn’t want to look for inspiration anymore, I wanted to be inspirational.

“I’m working hard to improve my own professional and personal life and harder still to inspire my students to do the same.”

David is a big believer in the importance of movement and getting out in nature and has incorporated daily walks into his students’ classes.

“An hour and a half is a long time for some of these students in the classroom, so I started teaching half the class inside and the other half walking around Kernot Lake.”

Each day he and the students walk three kilometres as part of their class.

“I push them pretty hard and I believe you can’t ask someone to do something if you’re not willing to do it yourself. Walking three kilometres is not challenging at all for me, but walking 60km sure was.”

David stood out amongst an incredible field of 27 strong nominations for the Step Up Award when measured against my core values of ‘making a difference’ and ‘lift people up’.

His prize, valued at more than $2000, includes three one-on-one coaching sessions, a ticket to my upcoming ‘Effective Communication – Developing Assertiveness’ workshop, and a copy of my book ‘Soft is the New Hard’.

David said he hoped to use the learnings from his prize to not only develop his own soft skills, but also to help him develop and implement new classroom strategies and activities for his students.

The Step Up Award was judged by a panel of three and is part of my commitment to giving back to the Gippsland community.

All nominees receive a free copy of my book Soft is the New Hard.