Leadership Development Program

Katherine High School welcomes slithering ssspecial arrival

Tuesday, March 19th, 2024

Teach For Australia (TFA) teacher Tom Hennessy is bringing his passion for animals and conservation to Katherine High School by introducing a unique new ambassador: an Oenpelli Python.

Tom is in his second year teaching Biology and Science at the school as part of our Leadership Development Program – previously volunteering with conservation groups and working as a zookeeper before making the career switch.

Through the Oenpelli Python captive breeding program, Tom has arranged the special arrival to serve as an ambassador for its species and conservation in general across the Northern Territory.

“I was hoping to combine my passion in zoology with teaching and create a unique experience for my students,” Tom said.

“The aim is for the python to serve as an ambassador for his species and to prompt students to begin thinking about their impact on the environment. So, its link to sustainability and conservation will be very beneficial in the delivery of these topics.

“It is a unique experience – as of 2024 only a handful of locations in the world are displaying the Oenpelli Python in captivity so it is a real privilege for Katherine High School to be on that list.”

Tom said there had been a strong sense of excitement among students in the lead-up to the python’s arrival.

“I haven’t gone a single day without being asked ‘has the snake arrived yet?’,” he said.

“Support from the faculty has been incredible as well with our art and woodwork teachers working with me to prepare an enclosure that will be a suitable home for this python.”

TFA has partnered with Katherine High School since 2012. TFA State Manager, Caitlin Conway, said Tom was a wonderful example of the passion and unique expertise that TFA teachers bring to schools in the NT.

“Career changers like Tom bring specialised knowledge and experience from their previous work and studies to the classroom – it’s exciting to see it in action,” she said.

“The support and mentoring provided by Katherine High school staff has enabled Tom to bring his passion for Zoology and animals to life – helping him have an impact in his first two years of teaching.

“Visiting Tom’s class, it is clear that all the students are so excited for the python’s arrival. This is a great example of bringing local, contextual science to life!”

TFA’s Leadership Development Program is an employment-based pathway into teaching, where high-calibre graduates and career changers teach subjects directly related to their previous studies while undertaking their Master of Teaching. They are supported by one-on-one mentoring and coaching during the two-year program to accelerate their professional development.

The program is bringing talented people into teaching who otherwise might not have considered the career – helping to fill vacancies in schools as workforce shortages persist.

Applications for the 2025 Cohort of the program are now open.

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