‘You become a leader in those two years without realising it’

Eliza Kramer had known she wanted to be a classroom teacher since high school. It was a simple choice to apply for Teach For Australia’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) once she completed her Health Sciences and Psychology degree.

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During her senior years of high school, she had spotted a poster for the program in the school bathrooms and thought the LDP’s unique employment-based pathway to a teaching qualification sounded like “a quick, impactful way” to become a teacher.

“I was slightly unique because I always wanted to be a teacher and I was inspired by the work of TFA – it was always my dream,” she said.

Eliza relocated from Geelong to Morwell in Victoria’s Gippsland region to teach Literacy, Wellbeing, Health and PE at the Berry Street School as part of the program’s 2021 Cohort.

More than a Master’s

“I would always roll my eyes at the leadership part of the program name – I just wanted to be a teacher. Getting to have hands-on experience as soon as possible was the number one motivator for me to click submit,” Eliza said.

But she quickly realised the LDP was more than just an employment-based pathway to teaching.

Immediately after completing the program, at just 23 years old, Eliza was promoted to the position of Lead Teacher of Teaching & Learning across all of Berry Street’s four school campuses in Narre Warren, Shepparton, Ballarat and Morwell.

“The skills I was taught during the program – not necessarily tangible ones, but my own personal development – was quite incredible. Through the university degree, but also the hours and hours of professional learning and the networking opportunities that you are given through TFA,” she said.

“By connecting with other people with different lived experience to myself, the staff of TFA really believing in me, and the never-ending learning opportunities – you become a leader in those two years even if you don’t realise it.”

Three-tiered support

Eliza credits her development as a leader to the wrap-around support provided during the program – including 1:1 coaching and mentoring.

Each LDP Associate has a dedicated TFA Teaching and Leadership Coach, an Australian Catholic University (ACU) Academic Mentor, and an in-school mentor – who all work together to support their personal and professional development and wellbeing.

“A big part of why I think TFA is head and shoulders above other programs is the support you get,” Eliza said.

“You have three different support people who are with you for the entire two years and have nothing but your best interest at heart. They became not just mentors, but friends and really trusted people in those two years – people I still talk to today.

“I feel as if I wouldn’t have been able to shoulder some of the really tough moments if it wasn’t for the experience and advice from those three individuals, who wore different hats and different perspectives but were incredible at helping me through.”

‘Values alignment shines through’

The Berry Street School exists to educate young people with a history of adverse childhood experiences who are at risk of, or who have, disengaged from their education.

Eliza said her Leadership Development Program experience at Berry Street had ignited her passion to help “students who don’t love school, to love school again”.

“It’s been really interesting to have my whole perspective and values around what education is and why I wanted to be a teacher change completely,” she said.

“The Leadership Development Program opened my eyes to things that I guarantee I wouldn’t have covered if I went through a traditional teaching pathway.

“Particularly things like diverse learners, learning about young people with additional needs, but also diversity in terms of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and people from marginalised communities, or LGBTQIA+ young people – these have become my areas of passion now in education.”

Eliza said that was a common thread among TFA’s Associates: their commitment to serving their students.

“The one thing that stands out to me is how much they care about TFA’s mission, but also how much they care about teaching in general,” she said.

“I am confident that the majority of people who apply, do so for a reason – and that values alignment shines through with every single Associate I’ve ever met.”

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