STEPHEN Rudolph has taught, been a principal, and overseen hundreds of education institutions nationally but at 64 he's now a student himself.
Found at stove tops and chopping boards on most days, the Port Fairy man is the oldest of a dozen classmates at Warrnambool South West TAFE's commercial cookery class.
"Ongoing learning and growth is something I have always believed in. I also believe you have to do it, not just speak about it," Mr Rudolph said.
He was a principal-teacher aged 23 in Dimboola before leading four other schools including St Peters Lutheran College in Brisbane and the school he once attended as a student, Luther College in Croydon.
Mr Rudolph was also executive director of Lutheran Education Australia, overseeing 150 pre-schools, kindergartens and schools.
But in his 42 years in education he sidelined a passion for cooking, which his uncle had inspired during his childhood with stories of his bakery in Horsham.
"This is a culmination of what I have done as a principal, helped young people on their journeys and I will continue on mine," Mr Rudolph said.
"I'm suddenly not standing with the steering wheel in my hand. It's a refreshing change to sit and be a learner and learn with a group of people rather than have to always be the leader."
He hoped to use his qualifications to work part time in a commercial kitchen.
Mr Rudolph said the region was "remarkably fortunate" to have TAFE facilities available to people of all ages but he was concerned governments did not comprehend the challenges for regional school education.
"I hope that governments can see their way to giving local communities, principals, teachers and parents greater autonomy in determining their school's direction and state governments providing sufficient financial support to government schools," he said.
"This TAFE is a fantastic resource to the local community, not just Warrnambool, but the south-west ... If people said 'you're a 64 years old, what are doing at TAFE?' I would say 'TAFE is for everybody."
Mr Rudolph said while he had not matched his uncle's pastries, he had mastered a duck and pork mince terrine.
"You could have put in an upmarket restaurant. Slice it thinly, put it on the plate, it's art as well as great food."
South West TAFE will host information sessions for mid-year courses in Warrnambool on June 17-18.
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