From White Cliffs to Waterloo
As we celebrate World Teachers' Day, Kathleen Ferguson finds out what it is like teaching in the most populated and remote areas of NSW.
29 October 2021
Ellie Burgess could hear the call of the country when finishing university, but an opportunity to teach in Sydney was offered and she seized it.
But it didn’t take too long before she was back in a familiar environment with sweeping plains and sparse bushland.
Ms Burgess has gone from being in a school with hundreds of students to teaching about a dozen children as a teaching principal at White Cliffs Public School in the state’s far west.
“I am from the country and wanted to get back and work in remote schools in remote areas,” she said.
Ms Burgess said she loved being able to spend time with her students, including off school grounds.
“You see the kids all the time, they drive past your house and you wave at them,” she said.
Working in a remote community was special to her after growing up in the Snowy Mountains in regional Victoria.
“It’s community, it’s knowing the kids,” Ms Burgess said.
“You have the time to build relationships with students and families.”
Several hundred kilometres away across the Great Diving Range in the Sydney basin, Debra Lade is teaching in a very different environment.
She’s a teacher and assistant principal at Alexandria Park Community School, which is located in one of Sydney’s most densely populated areas.
And while her school is different in shape and size, the message remains the same; working as an educator strongly embeds both Ms Burgess and Ms Lade in their respective communities and they are helping enrich the lives of the children and families they work with.
“It is wonderful to be part of a connected community that provides so many educational opportunities for students from K-12,” Ms Lade said.
“I also love working with such a diverse teaching community; we learn from each other every day.
“At Alexandria Park I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Aboriginal families and staff and I am proud to be part of a school community that values and respects our first nation’s peoples.”
Ms Lade said being a teacher in her community gave her a sense of purpose in life, and that getting up to go to work each day was a joy.
“Being a teacher is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life,” she said.
“Every day is different. Every day makes you smile.”
She said she would encourage anyone considering a career in education to take the opportunity with both hands, knowing you would be making a difference.
“Teachers have the power to make an impact on the lives of children; teachers are amazing,” she said.