Class of new recruits off to make a difference

By John Lewis

Shepparton schools are centres of bustling fresh energy this week — and it is not all coming from the students.

New Teach For Australia recruits will enter classrooms for the first time, with 55 teachers or ‘‘associates’’ of the program placed at 10 schools across the Shepparton region over the past 10 years.

The not-for-profit philanthropic and government-sponsored organisation aims to tackle educational disadvantage by recruiting people with non-teaching degrees who have professional experience outside the education system.

Out of 153 new TFA recruits across Victoria this year, Shepparton’s McGuire College has the largest TFA cohort in Victoria.

The college yesterday welcomed eight keen new recruits who hope to make a difference in young people’s lives.

College principal Claire Kelly said this was the ninth year the college had employed recruits from the TFA program.

‘‘They come with a wide variety of work experience and passion, and they all have huge commitment and a high moral purpose,’’ Ms Kelly said.

She said the TFA recruits were all high achievers and made strong role models.

‘‘We want to lift aspirations for our students,’’ she said.

Ms Kelly said previous TFA recruits had remained at the college to become year level and specialist program leaders.

She said the program helped fill teaching gaps in some subjects, particularly in science and mathematics.

‘‘They bring diversity and experience and show students there are career pathways outside school,’’ she said.

After two years of teaching in state schools, TFA ‘‘associates’’ graduate with a Master of Teaching.

Anna De Smit, 24, from Melbourne and Scott Dickson, 27, from Perth are two of McGuire’s new TFA recruits for this year.

Mr Dickson completed a double business degree in marketing and management at Melbourne’s Monash University before working for 5 years at GM Holden in Perth.

He will teach two VCAL subjects at McGuire — Year 8 history and Year 10 industry and enterprise.

Mr Dickson said the switch to teaching was about making a difference in people’s lives.

‘‘Working in business was stimulating, but not fulfilling,’’ he said.

He said he was ‘‘nervous, but excited’’ about his first day of teaching at McGuire.

‘‘I’m looking forward to the day when I know I’ve made a difference, or changed someone’s life,’’ he said.

Ms De Smit has a Bachelor of Languages, also from Monash.

She and husband Jamie De Smit have joined the teaching staff as TFA recruits at McGuire College this year.

She will teach French and English as an additional language.

Ms De Smit spent two gap years after college during which she travelled and got married.

‘‘I love the mission of Teach for Australia — bringing education to rural and remote areas,’’ she said.

‘‘I’m looking forward to building relationships, particularly in McGuire with its multicultural background

‘‘I feel quite blessed to become a teacher and I really love the country. I’m excited to work in Shepparton.’’

Both praised the support they had received from TFA.

‘‘We have an in-school mentor, academic support online and a TFA mentor, like a coach who observes us in class,’’ Mr Scott said.