Outback school claims a corner of principal’s heart

Tibooburra is a tiny town with a big welcome, as its new principal has found. Kerrie O’Connor reports.

Image: Tibooburra Outback Public School teaching principal Amanda Wheeler is committed to the success of every student.

Amanda Wheeler left the traffic snarls of western Sydney for the friendly smiles of NSW’s most remote mainland school – and hasn’t looked back.

The Tibooburra Outback Public School teaching principal arrived in 2022 and was soon at home in this tiny but thriving community.

With a population of 134, Tibooburra is just 100 kilometres from where the NSW, South Australian and Queensland borders meet, at Cameron Corner, and its community has claimed a large corner of Miss Wheeler’s heart.

“Tibooburra is the most welcoming community I have ever experienced,” she said.

Previously Miss Wheeler has lived and worked in north-west England and the Deep South of the United States, but colleagues inspired her to give remote NSW a try.

Teaching in a remote area carries incentives such as a ginger school cat called Ninja (adopted with affection), the occasional foray of wild goats into the classroom (ousted with hilarity) and an invitation to fly by helicopter over the stunning Sturt National Park (accepted with glee).

But the primary incentive is to help her six students take flight in their learning.

“I am so thrilled with the improvements I am seeing,” Miss Wheeler said.

Image: Amanda did not know her new posting in Tibooburra came with a bonus cat, but the ginger Ninja soon taught her the ropes.

Her passion to provide the best education for the students continues to motivate her.

“I can’t see myself anywhere else at this stage,” she said.

That’s just what Far West Director of Education and Learning Peter Macbeth wants to hear of this “proud and dedicated teacher with a passion to see students succeed, no matter where they live”.

“Amanda’s belief in every student has seen all Tibooburra students grow and flourish,” Mr Macbeth said.

“It is Amanda’s relentless belief that every student will succeed that has made such a difference in building a strong, focused school culture of improving in literacy and numeracy.”

Image: Amanda and students take the occasional attempted enrolment of wild goats in their stride.

Tibooburra is on the lands of the Wangkumara, Wadigali and Maljangapa people, and ceremonial sites and scarred trees surround the town.

Miss Wheeler tempts other teachers to think outside the city square and consider a remote posting.

“I encourage anyone wishing to develop their leadership experience to give it a go,” she said.

“Being an outback principal is amazing.

“The most important skill needed is to be an open and honest person, willing to connect with the community.”

Miss Wheeler enjoys building relationships with students and parents and has picked up skills in plumbing, gardening and construction, human resources, finance, work, health and safety.

Mr Macbeth said the network offered teachers opportunities and diversity in their perspectives.

“We develop lessons that meet the individual needs of our students and have an undeniable positive impact,” he said.

Teachers in the network work together to strengthen “the belief and commitment that every student can succeed”.

Learn about the great range of new benefits and incentives for teachers and executives in rural and remote NSW public schools here.

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