A love affair with teaching

When Rachael Ferguson followed her fella to rural NSW, she also embraced the local school. On World Teachers’ Day she reflects on her career.

Image: A family affair: Rachael Ferguson feels privileged to have watched her students grow, learn and become good people.

City girl falls for country lad, says yes and finds herself in Manilla in north-western NSW. My home for the past 28 years is on the land of the Kamilaroi people and the heart of the Manaelle people. It has seen the arrival of five children, beautiful friendships and a community of people who have given me a school and career that I am very proud of.

Teaching the young people of my community K-12, across generations, is the greatest privilege. I have delighted in watching our bright, inquisitive and funny little ones begin their educational journey and have felt such joy in sending caring, empathetic young adults into the world. The classroom remains a place of wonder to me. I have taught with innovative, professional and moreover, passionate educators. My colleagues across the school tap into positivity, rich engagement and establish caring and authentic relationships with their students. We are proud that we have a culture of a genuine love of learning.

Each day I interact with my community, there are no closing of the gates or in-school hours limits. Getting my groceries, coffee, car serviced, farming supplies or a lazy Friday night burger, my life is communicating and interacting with my students, parents, grandparents and community members who are all connected to my workplace. My community cares about its young people, they volunteer, mentor and support students with humbling generosity, to ensure that no one is left behind.

As a country teacher, I am able to liaise with health, police and community organisations in order to collectively support our students and their families. A community network of care is a very powerful and valuable part of how we lift one another. We have our challenges, but we have the heart and tenacity to do what it takes to provide the very best for our children. I have served in several community organisations. I currently serve on the Manilla Health One Committee Advisory advocating for my young people and their families. The fight for better access to paediatric and mental health services is ongoing and is critical to the wellbeing and educational outcomes of our kids.

The community of Manilla Central School has educated me. Reflecting on my time here and the roles I have been entrusted with, sometimes just on good faith I think, has enriched my professional life and personal life. I often say that the three great loves of my life are my family, my friends and my school. My own family understand how my vocation is at times consuming, they lift and encourage me to try harder. I have witnessed profound sadness, great triumphs, magic learning moments. Country kids are something else. They are stoic, funny and very generous. Filters are rare, their honesty and loyalty are what I look forward to most at the school gate as I greet them in the morning and say goodbye in the afternoon. My kids, their families and my colleagues have shaped me as an educator, they have cared for me.

To my students, thank you for allowing me to have a front row seat. To watch you grow, learn and become very good people, doing amazing things, has been a joy. You are family.

Rachael Ferguson is deputy principal (high school) at Manilla Central School.

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