Please tell us a little about your background in education. Why did you decide to become involved in education? What are some of the roles you’ve had and what does your current role involve?
I grew up across three countries, South Africa, Botswana and Australia. My parents sacrificed so much for me and my siblings by immigrating from South Africa. They left good jobs, friends and family so my siblings and I could follow our dreams through education. Whilst at school I loved every subject from maths to science to sport as I just loved learning. So I quickly got known as the teacher’s pet. Which at the time I thought was great as who wants to get in trouble. I finished my last three years of high school in Queensland and headed to the University of Queensland to complete my Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Movement Studies Education. My course (I have now learnt) is not a typical teacher prep course as the focus was more on the studies of the content areas (such as Biochemistry, Biomechanics and Sports Psychology) rather than the theories surrounding learning and education. But I must confess teaching prac was the eye opener for me. Being a teacher’s pet, I did not understand why kids would not want to learn and follow instructions. My skills a football referee (soccer for the uninitiated) came to be very valuable as man management was a strength of mine on the pitch and had also be one in the class room. Once I was finished with uni, I was married and had my first child – so teaching had to wait for a year. I then got that special call asking me to be a permanent teacher. I jumped at it with excitement even though I would have to work so hard as I was not a HPE and science teacher as I intended but a senior chemistry and maths teacher. I drove head first into it and struggled like crazy but loved it. My ambition took over very early in my career, I became a Year coordinator, QCAA panel member, started brand new subjects and was the Sports coordinator. After 5 years I transferred to become a foundation teacher in a brand new school. I loved the fact that I could be part of forming a culture. After a year I become the Acting Head of Department for Science whilst running an excellence program in engineering. I did this for a year and then applied to another brand new school. I got the job and became the Foundation Head of Department Science and Maths. After a year this role has evolved into be the HOD of Science and HPE. I have the great pleasure of being in charge of the STEM program and have been blessed with all the fantastic experiences I have had. In my head I would not have predicted that my career would have taken the roundabout path that it has but I know I would not have changed a thing!
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
I have been very fortunate to have had 3 keys teachers growing up, Mr Riaan Van Schalkwyk , Mr Bill Wilson and Ms Sharon Cordiner. These people inspired me to work hard as I could but to also accept that there is no such thing as perfection. I will be forever grateful for all the support and guidance they gave me growing up as a student and still now as a teacher.
As the teacher now, it is my students that help to keep me motivated. They are very vocal in telling me that they do not want to sit and be spoken at. They want to learn but they can’t always express what is the best way for them to learn. For me teacher is not just a job it is a privilege as I get to help guide my students to reach their full potential. And show them how fun science is as everyone loves exploding things.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
For me the biggest reward in teaching is the quiet “Thank you Miss”. It those times when a student is not understanding and then suddenly the light bulb goes off or when they feel like the world is completely collapsing around them and as a teacher I like being the one just to give them that thumbs up or small smile of encouragement. Teaching is more than teaching the curriculum for me – it’s about helping the students through the good and bad days to walk out of high school as good people.
In terms of challenges in education, I believe that the largest one is work load. Teachers love to teach and if there is anything that they can do to help their students they will do it. I know that I spend many many hours planning, researching, purchasing and making all sorts of things for my classes. I love doing that but then when it is accompanied by all the paperwork there are not many hours in the day. I have three young girls, a husband, fur babies, friends and family that depending on what week of the term it is don’t always get the best of me as. So work life balance is a very tricky thing when you love what you do but also love the rest of you.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I would love to see the following:
- Teachers truly respected as professionals as without us no other profession would exist.
- Science seen as a fun subject not just a hard one.
- A funding model that supports early intervention.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
Sometimes teachers can become very isolated in their classrooms. EduTweetOz is a way of connecting with likeminded people from across the country to share thoughts, ideas and feedback. To bring up a child it takes a village. So a village of educators is a great place to gain advice and support as no one teacher has all the answers.