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Top of the class: accolades for Latrobe Valley educators

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Teach For Australia Monday, May 31st, 2021

Driven in their work for equity, two Latrobe Valley educators have been recognised with major accolades ahead of Victorian Education Week.

Alanah Andrews and Keita Matsumoto are both Alumni of Teach For Australia’s Leadership Development Program who began their teaching careers at Traralgon College.

Alanah, now head of English at Traralgon College, has been awarded the $10,000 Public Education Foundation’s Teachers Mutual Bank Victorian Mid-Career Scholarship in recognition of commitment to literacy improvement and her care for her students’ future pathways.

Keita, now Partnership Manager with Our Place in Morwell, has just been named on Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 List for Social Impact.

“The theme of Victorian Education Week is ‘Building Connections’, and Teach For Australia is so proud of the work Alanah and Keita are doing alongside fellow educators in the Latrobe Valley to build strong connections in service of the children and young people of this region,” Teach For Australia (TFA) CEO Melodie Potts Rosevear said.

Alanah is passionate about ensuring her students develop the reading and writing skills they need to succeed. She will use her scholarship for further postgraduate training in literacy education.

“Our students all need to be leaving school with excellent reading and writing skills so that they are well-equipped to pursue their future pathways,” Alanah said.

“My motivation is improving student outcomes. When you become a teacher you care so much for the kids and want to give them the best opportunities you can with their learning, so I feel it’s really important that teachers are life-long learners in our practice too.”

Alanah began teaching in 2015 after completing a Bachelor of Arts and working as a teacher’s aide. Accepted into TFA’s Leadership Development Program, Alanah relocated from Bairnsdale for a placement at Traralgon College. She completed her two-year Masters in Education while teaching.

Working, studying, and receiving TFA’s coaching and mentoring support was a good fit for Alanah’s family commitment. She has been teaching in Traralgon schools ever since.

“I have found it to be a very supportive community. While I was doing the program, my mentor was the school principal and the leadership were also very supportive. There is a commitment to ongoing development and improvement at the school, and last year I became part of the Inner Gippsland English Teachers Community of Practice.”

Like Alanah, Keita now calls Latrobe Valley home after relocating to take up his placement at Traralgon College in 2016. He was motivated towards a career in education knowing it had been so important for his own family.

“As far back as I know, exceptional education and in particular, exceptional teachers, have played a critical role in my family’s history. And I think this would be the same for many of those lucky enough to be born into fortunate backgrounds. For me, the clearest way to honour this history was to give back to the education system which gave so much to me, and of course the most direct way to do this was to teach.”

Now at Our Place in Morwell, Keita said he hoped the Forbes listing would help him showcase the world-class social impact work happening in Victoria. He also hopes to motivate more people to see that positive, significant change is possible.

“I hope the platform highlights to others the tremendous opportunities for impact that exist right here in Gippsland, and that it attracts even more talent to our region to help advance the critical social and economic progress that must be achieved in the coming decades,” Keita said.

“We often hear about the problems of education inequity. But one benefit of working at the ‘coal-face’ is your exposure to the inspiring stories that don’t make headlines: the student who topped their class despite caring for siblings and juggling a part-time job; the teacher who quietly but consistently outperforms the state in their VCE subject scores. These are the anecdotes that demonstrate that progress is possible, and are the anecdotes that one falls back on during difficult times.”

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