Back to school for (air)borne again teacher

The Teachers Re-engage initiative is proving a drawcard for educators looking for a work-life balance. Glenn Cullen reports.

A man holding the hand of a student. A man holding the hand of a student.
Image: Teacher Mark Berry with one of his students.

As a glider pilot, avid cyclist and archer, Mark Berry knew he would have plenty to fill his days in retirement.

But Mr Berry also had a sense of a job not being quite finished, so when he got the call about a possible return to teaching, he was all ears.

“Actually, I was just working out how I was going to pay for some more gliding,” he said with a laugh.

“But really, it couldn’t have come at a better time. A few people suggested I should get back into teaching casually and I had considered it but was thinking it might be a bit too hard.”

Turns out, it could not have been much easier.

A teacher with almost two decades’ experience, Mr Berry was a prime candidate for the Teachers Re-engage program.

The Teachers Re-engage initiative started late year and involved the NSW Department of Education reaching out to valued former employees who had left the system in the past five years.

With the Department simplifying the re-employment process by providing support for attaining accreditation, approval to teach and a Working with Children Check, Mr Berry was back on the books in about a month.

Mr Berry still felt he had plenty to give as a teacher, particularly to schools for specific purposes and students with special needs.

Already, he has found work at Les Powell School in Mount Pritchard and Beverley Park School in Campbelltown.

“You need to get to know the kids and the place. When you are working with kids with profound disabilities, they need the routine and they need to get to know you,” he said.

“I’m enjoying working. The camaraderie, the support, the caring nature of the staff – they really put it out there.”

But he also loves the flexibility. A longer assignment can be followed by a break where he indulges his passion for gliding.

Then there is the appeal of working in another area of NSW.

With a daughter, also a teacher, and new grandson in Broulee on the south coast, Mr Berry is considering a stint at one of the local schools.

“I’d love to be closer to my grandson, so working down the coast would be fantastic,” he said.

Mr Berry is one of almost 150 former teachers who have already been re-accredited, with many more expressing an interest doing so.

Most of the roles are casual and temporary, with the new influx of teachers linked to more than 610 schools across the state. About 60 per cent of the returning teachers are coming out of retirement.

It follows the largest pay rise for the profession in decades and a renewed focus on reducing workload for teachers looking to re-join the workforce.

A man sitting in a glider. A man sitting in a glider.
Image: Mr Berry indulging one of his other passions, gliding.
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