From the corporate world to the coast of Sumatra

March 3, 2017 4:33 pm

Joel Hohn studied a Bachelor of Engineering (Photovoltaics and Solar Energy) at the University of New South Wales, and spent time in the corporate world, before joining Teach For Australia’s 2012 cohort. He taught Maths and Technology at Katherine High School in the Northern Territory. He was kind enough to jump in the interview hot seat for us this week!

1. Why did you join Teach For Australia?

I joined Teach For Australia after being a bit disillusioned by the corporate world and wanting to work in a place I felt would actually benefit the lives of the people I was working with. I had done a few volunteer educational projects during my time at university and enjoyed the energy young people brought to the table. But this experience also opened my eyes to how the education system was failing to provide all young Australians with the same opportunities once they had finished their schooling. When I first heard of the TFA program and its aims my interest was immediately piqued.

2. What made you choose to join Teach For Australia instead of taking a job in your industry?

I decided on pursuing TFA because I wanted to do some work that was more community-focused. Having originally studied engineering, and still enjoying the work I was doing in that field, it was a tough decision to make the jump to education, but I have not regretted making the change at all. I still regularly try to incorporate the skills and knowledge I bring from my previous experience, so some days it doesn’t even feel like I left the engineering behind.

3. What’s the funniest/most catastrophic event you’ve experienced in the classroom?

Well the list of catastrophic/funny events in my classroom is quite a long one, but one that comes to mind is a lesson I had while teaching in the NT. I was with a year 8 class doing some mathematical modelling using excel in the computer lab. The computer lab was freezing cold and without any way to increase the temperature of the room I propped open the door to the lab to let some warm air in. About 30 minutes into the lesson I hear a squeal from the front of the class and students are running in all directions. Unfortunately a slightly mangy shih tzu had wandered in through the open door and this resulted in half the class terrified and running away from the dog and the other half of the class chasing the dog to pet it. After doing a few laps of the class the dog eventually got tangled up in some of the computer wires and couldn’t get itself free. Imagine a rather nervous teacher trying to free a anxious, snappy shih tzu while a group of 25 year 8 students watch on – not one of my most graceful teaching moments!

TFA Alumnus Joel Hohn in Sumatra Joel with  a group of teachers he trained on the south west coast of Sumatra.

4. What project are you working on now?

I’m currently working with an organisation in Yogyakarta, Indonesia which aims at sustainably developing Southeast Asia through education, called SEAMEO. I’m working at the office of this organisation which focuses on mathematics education. We work on a range of projects, including teacher training courses for in-service teachers, research in mathematics education and facilitating networking opportunities between educators throughout Southeast Asia and further abroad.

5. Tell us something we don’t know about you.

I’m a bit of a data geek. Before teaching I had a job as a data analyst with a consulting firm. Once I started teaching my passion for data hadn’t quite left me and I was missing the days of manipulating data sets, so I decided to start doing more in depth analysis of my students and the results they were achieving. This led me to many a late night in front of my laptop pouring over my excel documents trying to find the best way to present the data for easy interpretation.

Funnily enough I found a like-minded teacher at my school, who ended up becoming a mentor figure for me, and we used to regularly geek-out over our student results and eventually started working together on a larger school wide data set for teachers which factored in things such as student attendance and standardised test scores so that teachers would be able to quickly identify if their students had literacy, numeracy of attendance issues and could put strategies in place early to support these students.

Keen to take the leap like Joel? Applications close April 2nd.

Check out the application