Making the move from working in Immigration and Refugee Law, Helen Stewart-Koster has taken her passion for human rights and justice advocacy, and her keen interest in educational equity, into the classroom.
With six years under her belt working with non-governmental and higher learning organisations to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds to receive high-quality education, choosing to leave the courtroom behind to become a teacher was an easy decision.
“I decided to move on from working in Immigration and Refugee Law, so I applied to the Teach For Australia program because I felt I would be able to make more of an impact as a teacher working with young people everyday,” Helen said.
“As a teacher, you might be one of the few consistent adults that a student has to check in on them every day. That’s something that I really value about my role in the classroom. Witnessing the lightbulb moments that the students have in the classroom is also very special.”
Unique and rewarding experience
With the belief that tertiary aspirations should be accessible to everyone, Helen has already made a significant impact at St Mary’s Catholic School in Wellington, NSW, which is part of the Catholic Education Diocese of Bathurst (CEDB) school network.
Christina Trimble, Executive Director of Schools at CEDB, says the partnership between Teach For Australia and Catholic Education Diocese of Bathurst is a welcomed investment that is enabling CEDB to engage new teachers to work in the area’s regional and rural schools.
“The Teach For Australia Associates are immersing themselves in school life and in the local community, as Helen is, learning about the unique and rewarding experience of teaching in a rural community,” Ms Trimble said.
“This is an investment from Catholic Education Diocese of Bathurst, with the support of Catholic Schools NSW, to provide schools with teachers who will make a difference in the learning and lives of our young people. We look forward to the Associates becoming valued teachers in CEDB schools.”
Helen’s influence so far is a testament to her caring nature, passion for social justice and trauma-informed teaching, which is a focus area in our Leadership Development Program curriculum.
“The program is focused on helping us as associates learn how to empower individual students, so we can lift them all up collectively. That aspect really aligns with my own personal values, so it makes it very easy to want to get stuck into assessments and the intensives,” Helen said.
“All of the learning opportunities are also trauma-informed and inclusive, and that’s the type of education that is important to me,” Helen said.
In her first term, Helen stepped in to run Mock Trials with a group of students interested in law, coached the school Cattle Showing Team, and has even extended her talents to help facilitate music and singing classes as a way to help build confidence and promote culture and the arts at the school.
Developing positive relationships
Commenting on Helen’s contribution to the school, Mrs Leanne Clarke, Principal at St Mary’s said: “The most impactful aspect of Helen’s work is her ability to adapt to the complexity of and change in the small school setting.
“Her prior experience working with children and supporting them with their life journey has enabled her to connect positively with her students here, developing relationships and an effective learning environment.”