Meet the Team: Blacktown West
In this instalment of our ‘Meet the team' series, we head to the Blacktown West group of schools to hear from Head Teacher Careers Deavelyn Besterwitch, School Administrative Officer Linda Reardon, and SBAT Engagement Officer Melanie Williams.
09 August 2023
Within Blacktown West, the Educational Pathways Program supports students attending Cambridge Park High School, Chifley College Bidwill Campus, Chifley College Dunheved Campus, Chifley College Mount Druitt Campus, Chifley College Senior Campus, Chifley College Shalvey Campus, and Cranebrook High School.
We spoke with the dedicated school-based staff at Blacktown West - Head Teacher Careers Deavelyn Besterwitch, School Administrative Officer Linda Reardon, and SBAT Engagement Officer Melanie Williams - about what makes their school group unique, why they chose to take on these roles, and what makes them feel supported in their day-to-day work.
What experience do you bring to the team?
Deavelyn: The experience I bring to my team is a culmination of years serving as a careers adviser and VET coordinator, driven by a deep passion to enhance students' learning journeys and ensure successful transitions beyond school. Having worked directly as a careers adviser, I empathise with the daily challenges and responsibilities my team faces, including administrative tasks and broader school duties. Furthermore, my extensive background as both a VET teacher and VET coordinator, in addition to my established industry networks and SBAT expertise, uniquely positions me as a valuable asset in promoting vocational education. My commitment lies in empowering students with practical skills and knowledge, preparing them for rewarding careers and positively shaping their futures.
Linda: I have worked in sales and marketing for many years, and feel confident that we will do a good job organising events. I have a sound knowledge of office procedures and if unsure of anything I will ask.
Melanie: Teaching and working in a community services setting for over 15 years has given me a great insight to employment diversity and encouraging employers to be open to the possibilities young people can bring to their business. My passion is to educate people on the importance of gaining confidence and independence so they can flourish within their future pathway. I believe that educational tools, along with early intervention and social acceptance, can encourage young people to succeed.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Deavelyn: What truly excites me about my role is the chance to create a positive impact. Each time we arrange a workshop and witness students leaving with newfound inspiration and enthusiasm to apply their new skills, we are assured that we have made a meaningful difference in their lives. The opportunity to ignite this passion and drive in young minds is what makes my role so fulfilling and rewarding.
Linda: I love the variety in tasks, love my team and try my best to be a valued member. I love seeing the success of students and seeing them enjoy the workshops makes it all worthwhile. I love attending events and workshops as it gives me a hands-on experience of all the wonderful things my Head Teacher plans. I love meeting new people and sharing the great things the EPP is offering students.
Melanie: I'm working with some amazing people within the department - especially Deavelyn and Linda, and my manager Rhonda Anderson who is always thinking outside the box and looking for various opportunities. This allows me to provide mentoring and support for SBATs (School Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships). I love creating learning and career opportunities for young people in partnership with our schools, community, and local businesses.
Are there any opportunities or challenges that are unique to the schools and communities you are working in?
Deavelyn: In my schools, the student population predominantly consists of low socio-economic families, with 30% to 40% being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. These students face challenges in accessing technology, transportation, and often have limited aspirations towards STEM careers. Through the EPP, we have the potential to make a significant impact by fostering aspirations through stronger connections with higher education, training, and vocational pathways. This includes providing opportunities for students to acquire employability skills and microcredentials, which will greatly enhance their chances of securing apprenticeships, traineeships, or meaningful employment.
Linda: We have a lot of opportunities for Aboriginal students in our area, which is fantastic. A challenge is that we are from a low socio-economic area and we really need to work hard at getting parents and students on board with different events, especially if public transport costs are needed.
Melanie: There are many opportunities for our students to thrive, the challenge is the stigma attached to the lower socio-economic areas in which our program is delivered, but that means there is all the more reason to have this wonderful program in our community.
What is your proudest achievement in the role so far?
Deavelyn: Making a difference one student at a time, my proudest moment was encountering a student at his school after he completed a pre-traineeship. Despite not attending school since the last lockdown, the course motivated him to realise that completing year 10 would enable him to secure a full-time apprenticeship. Inspired, he returned to school, caught up on missed work, and earned his ROSA certification.
Linda: Seeing the students become involved in different activities and events. I received Yammer-er of the year last year - that was awesome! I post our events regularly and have received great feedback.
Melanie: I love being on this journey with the students, and seeing them build confidence and achieve personal goals. I'm working with many bright, young students who have taken this opportunity with both hands, and wonderful employers in our community who are supportive of the program!
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Deavelyn: Bush walking or going on a long drive. I love the wide open spaces.
Linda: Spending time with my family, especially my grandchildren. I love going on a picnic in the fresh air, watching the kids having fun. I also love going out for dinner and movies, or just relaxing by the water somewhere.
Melanie: Paint, design, listen to music, and I love boxing.
Where is your favourite place? This could be anywhere! A holiday spot, special restaurant or the patch in the backyard that gets just the right amount of sun!
Deavelyn: The ‘edge of the world’ on Tasmania's wild west coast.
Linda: My favourite holiday spot is Fiji. I just love it. If not holidaying in Fiji, I will go to Sussex Inlet with my family and enjoy the sun!
Melanie: Fiji's coral coast is my favourite place hands down!
For our binge watchers, or book readers... any recommendations of TV shows, movies or books?
Deavelyn: Pride and Prejudice, the 1995 BBC series.
Linda: I love to read autobiographies. I'm not really into TV, just the news. I will watch the occasional movie at home if I am bored or just want to sit in the lounge for a while.