For everyone The change-makers in teaching

  • By Louise Swinn
  • This article was published more than 1 year ago.
  • 5 Dec 2022
Mark Zelman. Photo: Meredith O'Shea

Mark Zelman, hospitality teacher at William Angliss Institute, doesn’t miss his former life. “What a chef does is they spend all day cooking, preparing and cleaning, then two hours of service maybe twice, and they’ll get a thank you or a tip and then start the day again,” Mark says. “But as a teacher, you can see the development – and by the time the students have finished, they’re a different person.”

Like a lot of career-changers, Mark decided to make the shift when having children meant he needed more regular hours. “Family members just get to see me more now – I rarely work on public holidays.”

The biggest surprise was the amount of new technology, software and processes he had to learn, and “the massive increase in paperwork for funding and assessment requirements”.

For Mark, being a TAFE teacher “is super rewarding – the way you influence lives. Seeing them out in the industry using the skills I helped them gain to make our industry a better standard.”

Emilie Owens, currently on family/study leave from Parkville College, was formerly a curator at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. “I loved working in the arts, but the part of my job that I enjoyed most was the educational one: talking to people about the collections and introducing them to new ideas through art.”

“If I won TattsLotto tomorrow I’d still come back. I’d just teach for the fun of it.”

Darren Iape

Since completing a Masters of Education, she has been working with students in the youth carceral space. “The thing that I found most surprising was how easy it is for certain students to fall through the gaps, and how many students I encountered who were totally disengaged from formal education. The system works in favour of the privileged: just look at the funding of private schools.”

The biggest misconception is the myth of long holidays and short hours. “Even when teachers aren’t working – and we work long hours – you’re always thinking about your students and how you might improve their learning experiences.”

AEU rep Darren Iape teaches VCAL maths, technology and systems engineering at Doncaster Secondary College. He was in his mid-40s when he took up teaching, well established as a project engineer in aerospace and manufacturing. “Then I had a dream and realised it’s not what I want to do for the rest of my career.”

His school is collegial and supportive. “It gives me a real buzz every time I walk into work. With the kids, I’m always learning about life through their aspirations and challenges. The type of people who work in schools – they are passionate.”

In his previous job, when he got home, his work was finished. Not so with teaching. “You’re thinking about the next lesson all the time – a nice little quote or video I’ve seen that I can show the kids.

“If I won TattsLotto tomorrow, I’d still come back. I’d just teach for the fun of it,” Darren adds.

Emilie Owens. Photo: Meredith O'Shea

“Children at this age are such inspiring, hilarious and curious human beings – we laugh a lot in my classroom, and we have amazing conversations!”

Tess Holland

Before Maribyrnong College’s Emma McMahon became an English and Humanities teacher, she was many things: nanny, bookseller, admin temp, desktop publishing tutor, freelance writer and editor, not to mention yoga teacher.

She was struck by how long it can take to feel competent in all aspects of her new role. “No other position that I know of takes five years to master! And, even then, I’m still learning.”

Best thing? It is never boring, she says. “Teaching keeps me engaged, busy and challenged every day. If the government would just listen to teachers and respect us enough to implement the changes the education system so desperately needs then this could very easily be my dream job!”

Tess Holland, teacher at Williamstown North Primary School, previously worked at the ABC in Queensland. Already with a Bachelor of Communications under her belt, she enrolled in a Masters of Teaching. “By the end of the first month, I knew I had made the right decision. I enjoyed being with like-minded people who were genuinely caring, kind and passionate about public education.”

The biggest surprise has been the mental drain. “Education research indicates that, on an average day, a primary school teacher has to make about 1,500 decisions! The mental exhaustion when the bell goes at 3.30pm is very, very real!”

Tess adores teaching at senior primary level. “I love the positive impact I can have on the learning and thinking skills of nine to 12-year-olds. Children at this age are such inspiring, hilarious and curious human beings – we laugh a lot in my classroom, and we have amazing conversations!”

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