New teachers off to a great start

Whether switching careers or converting to permanent positions, teachers such as Devinda, Jaz and Rebecca are embracing their new roles. Kerrie O’Connor reports.

Image: Inspired: Former police officer Devinda Senarath works with students Ania Abayon and Jeni Bobby at Galungara Public School. Picture: OLIVIA GREY.

Former police officer now teacher Devinda Senarath has moved from locking up criminals to inspiring students to unlock their full potential.

Mr Senarath worked as a police officer for two years in western Sydney, a role which gave him a passion to help young people set positive goals for education and life.

He completed a two-year Masters in Teaching and, in 2022, gained casual work beside the experienced staff who had taught him as a child at Westmead Public School.

“I loved school,” he said.

He found he also loved teaching.

“I got to work with classes from Kinder to Year 6 and saw how different age groups learn and respond, emotionally and mentally,” Mr Senarath said.

Now he is excited to take up a permanent role at Galungara Public School in western Sydney teaching years 5 and 6.

“To get a permanent position is amazing,” he said.

“I am looking forward to inspiring them to live their best possible lives and take every opportunity to reach new goals.

“Children are curious and love learning through doing and experiencing.”

Mr Senarath wants to instill confidence and resilience in learning.

“If they don’t have confidence, it usually means they act out in other ways,” he said.

“If you develop their confidence to have a go, have a crack at education, they can try again, rather than give up and avoid it.”

As a police officer he was disheartened by the attitude of some young teenagers.

“They already think ‘this is my life now; this is how I will live my life’,” he said.

“You talk to them and try to get them to understand that actions have consequences, and they can change their life for the better, but only a small number seem to listen.

“Generally, younger children are easier to inspire.

“Before they go to high school, I want to equip them with the skills and knowledge to make the right choices.

“I want them to ask, ‘what effect will this have on me, my family, my community and how can I alter my decision to serve all of those people?’.”

Mr Senarath said skills gained as a police officer would be forever useful.

“Having leadership and the ability to calm situations and help people regulate what they were feeling, to look at things from another angle, was useful as a police officer,” he said.

He said he looked forward to working with families.

“My experiences have shown me how necessary parental and community engagement is in improving a child’s approach to education,” he said.

“A child’s lifestyle choices can often be linked to their family’s support during their educational journey.”

Image: Change: Jaz Kement switched careers to take up teaching and is excited to have a permanent role at Riverbank Public School. Picture: NATHAN LEE.

Jaz Kement spent 20 years at the NRMA training and motivating others.

They are skills that have continued to serve her well since retraining as a teacher.

Ms Kement is teaching Year 3 at Riverbank Public School and was “ecstatic” to gain a permanent role at the age of 45.

Rebecca Allen is sharing her passion for English with students at Oran Park High School.

After five years as a casual and temporary teacher in southern Sydney, she secured her first fulltime teaching role at the school.

The mother of four started in January 2023 and said her first weeks in the job had been “enjoyable and enriching”.

“I feel blessed to be working with warm staff and leadership who have made me feel both welcomed and supported,” Ms Allen said.

“I have the privilege of working beside seasoned teachers and recent graduates, all of whom bring to the classroom a dynamic way of teaching and have been inspirational to me, even in these first few weeks of term.  

“I'm enthusiastic about the year ahead and keen to establish a classroom where my kids can thrive.”  

Image: Passion: English teacher Rebecca Allen loves inspiring students and is delighted to have started a permanent role at Oran Park High School.

The English-History teacher sees her permanent role as a chance to make a difference.

“I love teaching and being in the classroom with the kids,” Ms Allen said.

“It’s the most important part of the job.

“I love building rapport, especially with those who don’t love English.

“It is so rewarding to see them engage with a book or poem and I enjoy garnering their interest.

“I had Year 12 students who, at first, did not like English, but went on to enrol in teaching because they loved the rapport of the classroom and wanted to have that with their own students.

“That is so moving and gives me purpose.”

Ms Allen said a permanent role would allow her to build stronger bonds with students.

“As a casual, I did not have ownership of a class,” she said.

“Being a temporary teacher helped build that bond. I could see students progress and make strides with them.

“Now, having this permanent role means the world to me. I am stoked.”

Ms Allen, has a BA and a Bachelor of Education (Honours) from the University of NSW. Her degree included subjects on teaching gifted and talented students and those with special needs.

After becoming a mother, she moved to the United States where she taught literacy part-time in Utah for eight years.

Now aged 46, with children aged from 14 to 22, Ms Allen believes the skills needed to raise a family translate well to teaching young people.

“Raising children has helped me become a better teacher,” she said.

“I have patience and tolerance and I understand where they are coming from.

“I have good classroom management skills.

“Teaching is an emotionally and psychologically rewarding profession, once you have a good classroom method and dynamic.

“I have a daughter in Year 11 who is talking about going into teaching because she has seen that rapport.”

Beginning Teachers

Beginning Teacher Support Funding, provides up to $60 million annually to schools to support a beginning teacher’s induction and professional development, as guided by the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

In 2022, more than 4,300 (eligible) permanent and temporary teachers were supported.

Principals have the flexibility to use the funding to support the individual needs of each teacher.

The most common way is to provide release time for the beginning teacher and a mentor, so they can:

  • Observe each other’s lessons and have team teaching opportunities
  • Collaboratively plan quality lessons to maximise impact on student learning
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