Donating Time to the Next Generation
Kolbeck works free courses at schools into his busy travel schedule
Seeing a patient become emotional about their new smile is one of the most rewarding parts of this profession for most dental technicians. Josef Kolbeck, CDT, loves that part of it, but he finds just as much gratification in seeing the eager faces of dental technology students in the free courses he offers.
Laboratories around the country and beyond pay Kolbeck to teach courses on his OMP occlusal measurement tool and other important principles of dental technology. In between, however, Kolbeck finds time whenever he can to donate products and courses, primarily at schools such as Indiana University Fort Wayne and Durham Technical Community College. If he is able to work an in-person visit into his schedule, he does that, and other times he utilizes video conferencing. The workshops are typically a full day, and Kolbeck often donates not only OMP tools but also instruments, waxes, and more. "I want the students to feel appreciated and to know there is a big future in this career," says the 21-year veteran technician, who is based out of Florida. "Sharing my knowledge with students and seeing the smiles on their faces as they take pictures to post on social media is so rewarding. I always tell them that I am not there as an instructor, but rather as a friend. I want to share the knowledge I have acquired over the years. I want them to see me as someone who was once a student like them. I took workshops and training courses, and I needed mentors. Now, I am happy to mentor others."
One instructor told Kolbeck after a course that, in 30 years of teaching, they had never seen students so happy about a workshop—and, more importantly, they had never seen students able to complete a denture setup in less than 30 minutes. "As great as it is to be appreciated, I get even more satisfaction from seeing my concepts applied successfully to make these students better technicians," Kolbeck says. During another course, at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Kolbeck was afforded the opportunity to restore an edentulous patient who was a military officer at the base. "This patient was in charge of 200 soldiers, and I was able to restore her smile for her while also teaching an entire group of technicians and dental assistants," he says.
Some colleges purchase OMP tools from Kolbeck for their students, and in those cases, he still makes a point to donate a day of teaching. "I provide edentulous models from real patients, and I help the students understand the materials that work the best for these cases," he says.
While Kolbeck makes some money on the OMP tool, he emphasizes that the profits are small after the cost of fabricating it and all the units he donates. "I am not trying to become a millionaire," he says. "I want to be remembered. I want to leave a legacy."
Kolbeck hopes more veteran technicians follow his lead and that of others who donate their time to the next generation. "There are so many young people out there who are eager to learn from experienced, skilled technicians," he says. "There is a need for passionate technicians to travel the country and share their knowledge. I am very passionate about what I do because giving back is so important."