Two of Terang’s newest teachers might come from opposite sides of the globe to each other, but they share the same desire to support students and help achieve educational equity in Australia.
Aoife Jones and Hannah Duffus started teaching at Terang College as part of the 2022 intake of Teach For Australia’s Leadership Development Program.
Through the two-year program, participants complete their Master’s degree and receive coaching and mentoring to accelerate their professional development while teaching in the classroom.
The program is the country’s leading employment-study pathway into teaching and aims to break the cycle of educational inequity in Australia.
With a Bachelor of Law and Minor in English Literature, Aoife was previously a legal professional at PwC but “felt drawn to Teach For Australia’s mission to fight educational inequity”.
Originally from Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, Aoife is now teaching English and Humanities to Years 7/8-10 at Terang College, and said the most rewarding aspect of teaching was building connections with her students.
“The small wins with students are indescribable. I never thought a student playing a practical joke on me would be considered a breakthrough moment, but it was an olive branch of trust and acceptance,” she said.
While Aoife hails from across the globe, Terang College is a little closer to home for Hannah Duffus – she is a former dux of the school herself and lives in Warrnambool.
After gaining a Diploma of Languages and Bachelor of Arts from Monash University and a Provost’s Scholarship at Worcester College, University of Oxford, Hannah is now teaching Years 7-10 English at her former secondary school.
“I chose to pursue a career in teaching because I wanted to use the skills and knowledge I have acquired since leaving Terang College to promote equity in my home community,” Hannah said.
“The best thing about teaching is watching my students learn and grow after two years of stagnation during the COVID-19 lockdowns,” she said. “They are excited about the gains they are making and are expressing more hope about the future.”
TFA Victorian State Manager, Philippa Williams, said TFA rigorously recruited high-achieving graduates and career changers like Hannah and Aoife each year to teach subject areas directly related to their previous studies, in communities where workforce needs are greatest.
With persistent shortages for STEM teachers, almost 50 per cent of the past two years’ cohorts of TFA teachers are qualified to teach STEM subjects. English, humanities and languages teachers are also in demand.
“Great teachers change lives, and the Leadership Development Program offers an opportunity for career changers and graduates to study while making a positive impact for Victorian students from day one,” Philippa said.
While their home towns couldn’t be much further apart, Hannah and Aoife both feel the same way about teaching in the community of Terang.
“After years spent living in large cities, country life is a joy. I love my early morning ocean swims in Warrnambool, and running around the lake in Terang,” Hannah said.
“A quieter life has given me the space to get back into my hobbies, and to recuperate from the stresses of work as a new teacher.”
Aoife said “Terang has an even more close-knit community” than she expected.
“It is hard not to feel a sense of belonging when a handful of students are excitedly saying hello to you on your grocery run,” she said.
To find out more about the LDP visit teachforaustralia.org.